The quicker Tar Heels outmuscled and outplayed the Eagles from start to finish, running away with a 81-63 win in the ACC Tournament.
After beating Isaiah Hicks back door from the 3-point line, Patrick Heckmann had nothing but the basket in front of him. The play—one that worked all season long for the Eagles—was going to be executed to perfection, until Hicks came roaring back to stuff Heckmann at the rim.
“That was the game,” Boston College head coach Jim Christian said.
That one play sums up the obvious difference between North Carolina (22-10, 11-7 ACC) and BC (13-19, 4-14): tired legs. But that play also summarizes the athleticism that can make UNC so deadly. Virginia plays incredible system basketball, Duke has arguably the best player in the country, and Notre Dame has a terrifyingly efficient offense—North Carolina has pure, raw athleticism. Whereas Georgia Tech’s big men are built like football players, UNC’s post players are in the mold of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, armed with expansive wing spans and gracious skill. Between these two things, the Tar Heels ran away with a 81-63 victory.
“Playing a team that is very explosive, that hangs around the rim, with guys that can jump out of the gym basically, it was kind of a tough game,” Dimitri Batten said.
Meanwhile, two games in as many days took a lot out of every step for the Eagles. BC’s lack of rest, combined with intense pressure from the Tar Heels, further hindered the team’s ability to knock down quality shots. For their part, Christian’s players, especially Olivier Hanlan, dismissed tired legs as an easy excuse.
“It’s the ACC Tournament, everyone is tired,” Hanlan said.
Tournament time is a brand new season. For the most part, any issues of fatigue have a tendency to even out and games come down to strategy or that one special play. The Eagles, however, had too many issues that compounded their tired legs and eliminated any chance of an upset.
BC usually starts off very quickly, and it did just that against UNC, jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead, and then keeping the game close for most of the first half. BC’s starters can play with the best teams in the country, but without any players to back them up, they can never get over the hump and pull out a close game.
“The best thing you could’ve done is come out early, and we did that,” Christian said.
Eventually though, you need to turn to your bench the rest of the way. Thanks to late plays from Eddie Odio and Garland Owens, BC finished with a mere four bench points, compared to 23 from North Carolina. At the half, the list of players who scored for UNC read longer than the list of players who had simply played for BC. Down low, the Eagles missed the presence of Will Magarity, as Dennis Clifford was forced to pick up too much of the slack. On top of all this, Heckmann picked up three fouls in the first half, and Christian had to deal with foul trouble from too many players throughout the game.
On the opposite bench, the Tar Heels did exceptionally well to limit Hanlan. J.P. Tokoto only finished with six points because his primary concern was guarding the top scorer in the ACC. After making his first shot, Hanlan missed his next seven shots. His 19 points on the night are par for the course, but he hit 5-of-19 shots from the field while adding seven points from the free throw line.
On offense, the Tar Heels made highlight reel play after highlight reel play, each one getting bigger after feeding off the overwhelmingly blue and white crowd. Early in the second half, when BC started stringing some defensive stops with breakaway dunks, the Tar Heels responded with a statement of their own. The Eagles could only watch as Justin Jackson received an alley-oop from half court and finished with the and-one.
“I thought they got the ball where they wanted to play and made a tremendous amount of key plays in late clock situations,” Christian said.
The name and the number on the back of the North Carolina jerseys did not matter, as every fast break point, every slam dunk, and every rejection off the backboard by any one of the Tar Heel athletes took a little bit more out of BC’s fight.
BC stuck around, largely in part to a stretch where UNC missed 8-of-10 attempts, but the game was never as close as the score indicated and the Eagles could not make up the ground they lost at the end of first half, which ended with a 13-point UNC lead, despite Christian’s belief that the game wasn’t over.
“I always think we have enough in the tank,” Christian said.
But just as Hicks caught up to Heckmann for the block, the Tar Heels were quicker than BC the whole way and, in the end, ran the Eagles out of the gym.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor