This past Saturday, the Boston College men’s basketball team edged out Virginia Tech 62-59. The win was BC’s first against an ACC opponent this season, and capped a four-game losing streak for the squad.
For a team that had its last Division 1 victory in late November against Sacred Heart, the contest presented reasons to hope for the salvaging of the season.
Lonnie Jackson delivered his best offensive performance of the season, scoring a game-high 17 points.
The junior guard let loose a 3-point barrage in the first half, making four of his first five shots from beyond the arc. Within 10 minutes of play, Jackson had surpassed his previous game-high point total of 11.
In spite of the scoring spree, Virginia Tech kept the game close by remaining aggressive. Redshirt sophomore Adam Smith responded to Jackson’s 3-pointers with two of his own. Freshman guard Devin Wilson drove the lane—drawing foul after foul. And the team, as a whole, took advantage of BC’s early offensive miscues—from shoddy inside passes to ill-advised drives.
By the end of the first half, Tech had assumed a 34-32 lead.
The contest remained a back-and-forth affair through the second half, and by the end of the game, there would be 15 lead changes.
Virginia Tech gained the largest lead of the half, a modest five points, early. But BC—focused and reorganized— whittled it down, and took it.
Among the major second half contributors was Joe Rahon. The sophomore guard acted as the architect of BC’s second half surge. He scored six points and made a series of smart passes—particularly to Eddie Odio, who consistently evaded defenders and hovered beneath the basket during the second half. By game’s end, Rahon had collected five assists, leading all other players.
Another key contributor was Dennis Clifford, who made his second appearance of the season. Coming off the bench, the 7-foot-1 center deterred Virginia Tech’s players from establishing a strong inside presence, and acted as a threat beneath and around the basket.
For BC, his involvement in the contest was invaluable, as the exploitation of height and size mismatches has proven troublesome for the team in the past. In many ways, the performance of Virginia Tech shows this weakness: the squad’s 6-foot-10 forward Joey Van Zegeren racked up five blocks—two in the first half and three in the second—and the entire team collected six more offensive rebounds than BC.
Clutch shooting filled the final minutes, as the two teams battled for an ACC victory: 3-pointers from Virginia Tech’s C.J. Barksdale, Jarell Eddie and Ben Emelogu gave their team the opportunity to win, and Barksdale’s last perimeter shot—made with approximately 1:30 left in the game—even gave his squad a single point lead.
But with 27.4 seconds left, BC clawed ahead—once and for all. Jackson dealt the finishing blow to Tech, nailing a shot from the perimeter to make the score 61-59. Rahon added an additional point after recovering a missed jumper by Smith and making a free throw to bring the final score to 62-59.
BC’s victory over Virginia Tech was not necessarily the result of a competition of star players. Olivier Hanlan, who leads the Eagles in scoring, made five of 15 shots from the field. Tech’s Jarell Eddie, who averages over 16 points per game, made three of 14 shots—continuing a downward spiral that began against Syracuse when the forward made two of nine.
It also came over an opponent that is in the middle of a restructuring phase: Virginia Tech has changed its starting lineup four times over the past four games, and a freshman, Emelogu, has been designated a team captain.
But the win also stopped an extended losing streak—and came on the backs of two players who have struggled with injuries throughout this season: Jackson and Clifford.
BC is attempting to overcome its losing start to the season as it enters the most difficult portion of its campaign, and Saturday’s win provided a much-needed boost for a squad short on success.