In their season opener on Monday night, Boston College Men’s Basketball beat Cornell 79-77 thanks to an electrifying layup from true freshman Prince Aligbe with 0.9 seconds remaining.
Aligbe, who went to high school at Minnehaha Academy in Minnesota, quickly emerged as a fan favorite in his first collegiate game. During opening introductions, the student section roared when they heard his name, and he returned the favor during brief stoppages when he was repeatedly hyping up the crowd, showing his appreciation. As one of BC’s top recruits, he had high expectations coming into the season and on Monday night, he showed everyone why.
Despite missing his first few shots, Aligbe did not shy away from the challenge. His talent and athleticism were on display all night. Seemingly every time he catches the ball, he puts his head down, attacks the hoop, and rises over defenders to finish strong around the rim. He exudes confidence and asserted himself in his first game as someone who could be a big impact player for an Eagles team looking to make some noise this season. He finished with a team-high 16 points along with 9 rebounds.
Despite Aligbe’s brilliance, he wasn’t the only contributor. The rest of the Eagles starters had strong games, while Coach Earl Grant saw some players step up and bring great energy off the bench, with key returners Quentin Post and Demarr Langford Jr. out with injuries.
BC’s backcourt of graduate guard Makai Ashton-Langford and sophomore guard Jaeden Zackery put in gritty, all-around performances. Ashton-Langford finished with 12 points and 4 assists on 6-14 shooting, while Zackery finished with 11 points and 7 assists on 4-9 shooting. Most importantly, Coach Grant prides his team on defense, and these two excel at it. Ashton-Langford had 3 steals and drew 3 charges, and Zackery had 4 steals and drew 2 charges, one of which was the biggest defensive play of the game when he beat his man to the spot and drew an offensive foul with two minutes left.
In the frontcourt, senior forward T.J. Bickerstaff had a strong game with a double-double: 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also prompted a roar from the crowd when he had a huge block which resulted in an Aligbe dunk at the other end.
The biggest surprise of the night was senior forward C.J. Penha Jr.’s performance off the bench for the Eagles. He added 15 points on 6-8 shooting, including 2-4 from three. He came into the game at times when the Eagles needed a spark, and he provided them with great energy off the bench.
On the other side of the court, Cornell certainly deserves some credit. They came into a hostile environment yet played a hard game. Sophomore guard Nazir Williams led them with 17 points while senior guard Greg Dolan added 13. The Big Red shot 36.1% (13-36) from three, which was a big factor in cutting down BC’s largest lead of 11 points in the first half.
Going forward, the main thing the Eagles need to focus on is cutting down their turnovers. They had 10 in the first half, and 19 for the whole game. It allowed Cornell to claw back into the game and shift the momentum after some strong BC defensive sequences—something Coach Grant will certainly not be happy about and will be something to monitor as the season goes on.
Overall, this was a good win for an Eagles team that lost a lot of close games like this last season. They showed resilience by not letting Cornell’s comeback shake them and exhibited their depth with a lot of players stepping up given the absences of Post and Langford Jr.
Lastly, Conte Forum was rocking on Monday night with a strong weeknight attendance of 4,239. After their highest Ken-Pom Ranking in recent memory, students and fans are hopeful for an Eagles team that can make some noise in a strong conference.
The Eagles look to build off this exciting win when they host Detroit Mercy on Friday at 1 PM.