WASHINGTON, D.C. — Well, at least you can say they tried.
It’s been a pretty depressing season for Boston College men’s basketball. But in the first round of the ACC Tournament, held at the Verizon Center in the nation’s capital, the Eagles (7-25, 0-18 Atlantic Coast) didn’t completely lay an egg against ninth-seeded Florida State. In fact, for a while, they kept it pretty close. BC, the No. 14 (and last) seed in the tournament, even led a few times in the first half. But eventually the Seminoles (19-12, 8-10) pulled away and advanced to the second round of the tournament with an 88-66 victory. With the loss, BC set the record for most losses in a single season by an ACC team.
The Eagles struggled to contain Florida State from the beginning. With three players clocking in at over 7 feet tall—Boris Bojanovsky, Jean Marc Christ Koumadje, and Michael Ojo—the Seminoles dominated the paint. They also took advantage of breakaway opportunities, scoring 10 first-half points off of turnovers. The entire team contributed early in the game, with the bench scoring 22 of the 39 total points.
“In the first half, we got into a bad rhythm defensively,” head coach Jim Christian said. “Just really fundamental stuff—bad closeouts, bad rotations.”
Only one Eagle made a considerable impression early. In his final game in maroon and gold, Dennis Clifford recorded 12 points and seven rebounds before halftime. The rest of the team combined for the remaining 18 points, with no one player scoring more than five points or grabbing more than two rebounds.
For a long stretch of the first half, BC kept the game competitive. Neither team held a lead of anything more than three points for almost the first 13 minutes of the game. With just more than five and a half minutes left, the score tied at 23 apiece, Florida State began to really pull away. An Eli Carter foul sent Malik Beasley to the line for two free throws. Beasley made the first and missed the second, but teammate Terance Mann grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Devon Bookert. Bookert drained a 3-pointer to give the Seminoles a 27-23 lead. Florida State carried this momentum for the remainder of the half, finishing with a 39-30 lead.
In the second half, BC struggled when both Clifford and Carter ran into foul trouble. Carter picked up three fouls in the first half alone and was whistled for his fourth less than 60 seconds into the second half. He sat for the next six minutes as Florida State increased its lead to 53-38 before Christian put him back in.
Meanwhile, after leading the Eagles throughout the first half, Clifford picked up several fouls. After his fourth, he headed to the bench to cool down for a while. In his absence Carter, who at one point had four points and four fouls, led the team in scoring, finishing with 21 points. Clifford subbed back in with just under 11 minutes to go but fouled out with roughly nine and a half minutes remaining, ending his BC career watching from the bench. He was one rebound shy of a double-double after totaling 15 points and nine rebounds on the day.
After keeping the game fairly competitive for most of the first half, BC broke down and allowed the Seminoles to pull away in the second. As in the first half, Florida State’s bench made a big contribution down the stretch, adding 23 points in the second half. As the Seminoles began to take a more dominating lead, the drive and motivation to play seemed to abandon the Eagles. Florida State finished the team off, putting BC out of its misery.
That’s not to say, however, that the team was happy the season has ended. After the game, when asked whether the team was relieved the nightmarish season was over, Clifford discussed the mood in the locker room.
“It’s very emotional in there,” he said. “Guys didn’t want to see it end, especially like this.”
Clifford himself was no exception. During the postgame press conference he broke down and needed a few moments to compose himself. Christian praised his big man, who played the best basketball of his career at the tail end of this season.
“Like I said a million times, I don’t know if he’s going down as one of the best players to ever play at Boston College,” Christian said. “But if you line him up with all the great players, look at what he’s done, look at the way he’s represented himself and this school—I couldn’t be prouder of a human being than I am of him.”
With the loss, Clifford’s playing career as an Eagle is officially over. If things had gone BC’s way, his time in Chestnut Hill might have been marked by success on the court. Instead, he was plagued with injuries, teammate Olivier Hanlan left early for the NBA Draft, and teammates Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon transferred to find more success with other schools.
The loss to Florida State marks the end of a season that the Eagles would probably like to forget. The norovirus outbreak last semester ended up being the least of BC’s worries as it lost every ACC game, bringing national attention to the University for all the wrong reasons. Over the next few weeks, Christian will sit down with his returning players to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and discuss how they can improve over the offseason.
After all, it really can’t get any worse.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor