Steve Donahue liked everything he saw from the Boston College men’s basketball team in Tuesday night’s 74-70 Atlantic Coast Conference loss to Florida State before a sparse Conte Forum crowd of 2,273 in the Eagles’ home finale of this season on the blink.
Everything, that is, except the final result.
BC shot the ball remarkably well against one of the league’s best field goal percentage defenses, hitting 52 percent (26 of 50) versus a Florida State team that held the opposition to an average of 38.9 percent shooting and allowed only two other teams this season to shoot better than 50 percent.
The Seminoles, however, wound up losing those games: at Maryland by 12 points, and vs. North Carolina by 6.
In addition, the Eagles made 11 of 25 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and outrebounded Florida State’s long and athletic squad, 29-22, getting 17 boards on the defensive glass.
“I would’ve loved our guys to have been rewarded for their effort,’’ said Donahue, whose team (8-22 overall, 4-13 ACC) was led by Olivier Hanlan’s 20-point effort and Patrick Heckmann’s 13-point contribution.
But, in the end, BC’s 16 turnovers — the most devastating of which came when Hanlan had an inbounds pass deflected off his leg in front of the Florida State bench with 22.3 seconds left and the Eagles trailing 70-68 — and Aaron Thomas’ game-high 26 points conspired against BC sending out senior Danny Rubin on a high note.
“It was another one of those ACC games that could’ve gone either way,’’ said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team (18-11, 9-8) also got 24 points from 6-9 senior power forward Okaro White. “I got to tip my hat to this [BC] team. They’ve played so many close games this year that I hope everybody understands that they’ve got everybody back next year.
“I hope we only play them once … and I hope it’s at our place.’’
Hamilton said he was wary of the matchup against the Eagles, who had already pulled the upset of the season in toppling top-ranked Syracuse from the ranks of the undefeated. He was wary about having to play a BC squad that ran a discipline offense that spread the opposition and put a great deal of stress on them by hitting its 3-point shots.
“This system is so difficult to defend, they execute it so well,’’ Hamilton said. “They do such a great job of playing within themselves on the offensive end … This team has the makings of something special, with everybody they’ve got coming back next year. We’ve been one of the better defensive teams in the country for a number of years and we really had very little answer for their system.’’
Conversely, the Eagles appeared to have little answer for Thomas or White, who combined to score 50 of their team’s points on 18-for-26 combined shooting from the field.
“White is really coming into his own, confidence-wise, over the last month,’’ Donahue said. “Aaron Thomas is as talented a scorer as there is in our league right now. He’s a terrific player. They’re very good individual basketball players. They have the lowest assist-to-baskets [ratio] in our league and I knew they were going to put you on an island at times, guarding them.
“I thought we did at times, but there were other times they got the best of us.’’
The wiry 6-foot-9-inch White led the Seminoles with 15 first-half points and reeled off five unanswered points on a layup and a three-point play to give FSU a 33-31 lead with 1:41 to go in the first half.
Heckmann, though, converted a crisp bounce pass from KC Caudill for a tying layup that enabled the Eagles to pull even, 33-33, at the break. However, the Seminoles, sparked by 7-3 sophomore center Boris Bojanovsky, went on a 10-3 run to pull ahead 54-50 when Bojanovsky banked in a nifty left hook with 10:10 to go.
BC came back to tie it, 55-55, on a pair of foul shots by Joe Rahon (11 points). Hanlan gave the Eagles a 57-55 lead when he converted a backcourt steal into a coast-to-coast layup with 7:35 to go
But the Seminoles came back to tie it (at 62 and 65) before surging to a late 71-68 lead when the FSU gained possession on Hanlan’s late turnover and Ian Miller made the first of two foul shot attempts with 21.4 seconds to go.
Hanlan pulled the Eagles within 71-70 on Hanlan’s driving layup with 14.2 seconds left, but it proved to be as close as BC got after Rahon then Hanlan missed last-gasp 3-pointers at the end of its home finale.
“With the type of season that they’ve had, to still be executing and playing together and playing within themselves shows the type of character they have,’’ Hamilton said, lauding the Eagles. “How they’re building this program, with everyone coming back next year, I just hope we have to play them once next year … and I hope it’s in Tallahassee.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.