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Second Half Surge Pushes Duke Past Eagles

Despite holding the lead for nearly 28 minutes of the game, Boston College men’s basketball couldn’t come out with a win against No. 7 Duke, falling 63-55 at home on Tuesday night. The loss marked the Eagles’ seventh in their last ten games and put the team below .500 at 11-12.

The first half proved hopeful for BC, with the Eagles outplaying Duke in just about every category. BC shot 40% from the floor, snagged 23 rebounds to Duke’s 17, and led by as much as 10 points in the first 20 minutes of play. The Eagles held Duke to a mere one minute and 23 seconds of lead time in the half, displaying their offensive dominance over the Blue Devils.

“They thoroughly outplayed us in the first half,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewskibetter known as Coach K–in the postgame press conference. “As much as we told our guys what to expect, we weren’t ready for that.”

Derryck Thornton led the Eagles in the first half with 10 points, followed by Jay Heath and Nik Popovic with 4 apiece. Thornton would finish the night with 21 points–the most by a player on either team.

BC held the momentum for a majority of the first half, capitalizing on a more-crowded-than-usual Conte Forum. Jairus Hamilton and Jared Hamilton exchanged eruptive dunks towards the beginning of the half to add to the electricity in the arena. 

The Eagles’ rebound game and Duke’s inability to get any shot to fall allowed BC to keep the energy on their side throughout the first half. BC outrebounded Duke in the first half 23-17, something they have only done against one other team this season, according to head coach Jim Christian. Steffon Mitchell led the Eagles with 12 rebounds on the night, nine in the first half.

“We rebounded the ball today,” said Christian. “We outrebounded Duke whichI think they’re a tremendous rebounding team. For us to do that shows a five-man effort to do it...I was proud of the way we competed.”

Although the first half belonged to the Eagles, a monstrous throwdown by Duke’s freshman phenom Cassius Stanley with 7:49 to go had all of Conte Forum picking up their jaws from the floor. That play capped seven unanswered points and five forced turnovers by Duke in the five minutes prior that gave Duke their first lead of the game at 17-16.

After going 6-of-9 from the floor at the start of the game, the Eagles fell to a meager 3-of-13 in the latter part of the half. This would not break BC, however, as they clawed their way back to head into halftime with a 24-21 lead over the Blue Devils.

The weirdest–for lack of a better word–part of the first half came in the form of 0% shooting from beyond the arc from both teams on a combined 21 attempts.

“Not a great three-point shooting night for the college basketball game tonight,” said Krzyzewski.

The second half followed a different storyline than the first. Shots started to fall for Duke, the Blue Devils upped their rebounds, and BC’s lack of three-point shooting shifted the tide towards the visitors.

Duke went up 25-24 early in the second half, displaying to the Eagles that they were a different team than what showed up in the first half. The Blue Devils scored twice as many points in the second half than in the first, outrebounded BC 22-17, and put more pressure on the Eagles in a zone defense.

BC’s inability to capitalize on shots beyond the arc proved fatal as the team missed a number of open threes that could have kept the score closer; shooting 2-18 from three against a strong Duke team likely will never lead to a victory.

The game remained close in the second half until the final five minutes when the Eagles seemed to lose the coherency that had kept them in the game. Duke ultimately maintained their lead, handing BC the 63-55 loss.

“We lost poise there with about five minutes to go in the game,” said Christian. “Some of it’s fatigue, you know, our guards played a lot of minutes, so it was fatigue.”

While the Eagles would have preferred a win, their ability to keep up with a team such as Duke bodes well for the future, especially considering the last meeting between these teams ended in a 39-point loss for BC. The Eagles have developed far beyond what they had in their last meeting with Duke, and will hopefully continue to improve throughout the rest of the season.

“Our team was bad in November,” said Christian. “We’re not that same team. Teams grow, teams develop. Players grow, players develop.”

BC will look to get back into a winning groove when they take on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, V.A. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at noon. 

Be sure to follow @BCGavelSports for all of the latest updates on Boston College athletics.

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