CHESTNUT HILL - Luckily for the Boston College Eagles, beauty doesn't win basketball games. Style points evaded the still building Boston College program in its 61-59 overtime win against the New Hampshire Wildcats on Sunday afternoon inside Conte Forum, but it was the team's grittiness that had head coach Steve Donahue praising his team's heart.
"I thought this was, since I had been here, one of the guttiest, grittiest games we had played and something that we talk about all the time," said Donahue, whose team improved to 5-5 overall. "[We didn't] make a three in regulation, getting your buts kicked in the offensive half in the first half and turn it around and dominate the glass in the second half and play really good team defense against a terrific coached, experienced older basketball team, which is a hard thing for us to do at this point in our development. I'm just really proud of our guys."
Boston College shot a season-worst 35.4 percent (23-for-65) after shooting 30.8 percent in the first half and made just two three-pointers while shooting a putrid 9.1 percent from long distance (2-for-22). Still, after trailing 31-23 at the break, a stronger second half -- spear-headed by sophomore forward Ryan Anderson -- helped the Eagles bridge the game and force overtime, where they would need some more magic to come away with the improbable victory.
Anderson scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and grabbed 16 second-half rebounds to help spark the comeback. Olivier Hanlan was the only other Eagle to reach double figures with 10 points while Joe Rahon and Lonnie Jackson each contributed with eight points. After being out-rebounded 22-14 in the first half, Boston College finished with an impressive 47-40 edge on the boards and a 16-11 advantage on the offensive glass (Anderson had eight).
The numbers clearly weren't in their favor, missing 42 shots on the afternoon, but Hanlan still maintained that he thought his team's shot selection was decent.
"I felt we were getting open shots, they just weren't going in for us today," said Hanlan. "Lonnie [Jackson] had a few, I had a lot of shots that I missed, but, I don't know, they just weren't going in today."
Despite the big difference in shooting percentage -- UNH shot 46.7 percent in the first half -- it took until the latter stages of the first half for the Wildcats to build a comfortable lead. Ferg Myrick, UNH's leading scorer with 21 points, reeled off seven of his team's 11 points during an 11-5 run that gave the Wildcats a 26-19 lead. New Hampshire would boost its lead to as many as eight points twice in the final 1:19 and led by that margin going into the intermission.
It appeared as if the Eagles might be able to seize the momentum in the early minutes of the second half, closing the gap to 34-30, but the Wildcats would steadily rebuild the lead to as many as 13 points, 47-34, with 10:54 remaining. That's when Anderson, Jackson and Patrick Heckmann (six points) sprung into action and changed the pace of the game with a 10-0 run to bring the Eagles within three, 47-44, at the 6:49 mark.
New Hampshire wouldn't give up the lead for several more minutes, when Anderson's layup made it a 51-50 edge for BC, but the Wildcats captured the advantage once more on the next possession on a hoop and a harm from Myrick. After Myrick made his free throw coming out of a timeout, the Eagles turned to Anderson again, who answered with a dunk to knot the score at 52.
Both sides had opportunities to win the game in the final minute, with Rahon committing a turnover with 44 ticks left and Chandler Rhoads (10 points) missing a layup with half a minute remaining. Once Hanlan grabbed Rhoads' miss, he advanced the ball to the Eagles' end and BC took a timeout.
On the inbounds play, the Eagles got the ball into the hands of Hanlan, who tossed it to Rahon. Jackson came around a screen and had an open look for the three, but Rahon's pass to him was late and Jackson gave the ball back to Rahon, who missed a potential game-winning three with three seconds left.
"We had it, and I think Joe just fell asleep at the wheel a little bit," Donahue said of the final play in regulation, which was drawn up for Jackson.
Ironically, it would be the three ball that saved Boston College in the extra period after New Hampshire opened the overtime period on a 4-0 run and led by five, 59-54, with 2:38 left. Jackson and Hanlan hit back-to-back threes, BC's first two treys, and Anderson sunk a free throw late to seal the game.
"I just said 'finally,' I was missing shots all game and that one felt good," Hanlan said of his go-ahead three in overtime. "It looked good when it went up and it was hoping it would go in."
Boston College is off until next Saturday, when it hosts the Providence Friars. New Hampshire plays its next game on Nov. 23 on the road against Penn State.
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