CHESTNUT HILL - Joe Rahon picked up the slack after a slow start to the second half and finished with 18 points (nine in the second half), but the Boston College Eagles were unable to finish the job against the No. 23/25 ranked N.C. State Wolfpack in a 78-73 loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener on Saturday afternoon inside a jam-packed Conte Forum.
"I thought we did a lot of things really well in terms of things that you're going to need to do to win the game," said Eagles head coach Steve Donahue. "I thought we were tough and physical and competed [and] took care of the basketball, fought through adversity with foul trouble. ... But to win a game against as talented [a] team as that, we've got to do certain things that we typically do."
The Eagles, who had won their last five prior to Saturday's loss, displayed tremendous heart in taking the Wolfpack down to the wire, fighting off multiple N.C. State runs all throughout the game. Boston College (8-6, 0-1 ACC) managed to hang around with N.C. State (12-2, 1-0 ACC) for the opening twenty minutes despite a 54.5 percent first half shooting percentage for the Wolfpack, even pulling ahead by as many as seven points (22-15 at 8:56). Guided by nine points from Rahon and nine points and seven rebounds from Ryan Anderson, the Eagles were within one point of the Wolfpack-- 29-28 -- entering halftime.
Eight quick points in the first 2:07 of the second half gave the Wolfpack their largest lead of the half at seven points, 37-30, but Rahon connected on a three-pointer and another jumper soon after that sparked a 9-2 run to tie the game at 29 with 16:05 to play. The Eagles gained even more momentum midway through the period, going ahead by six points on three separate occasions (the last occurring at 9:50, 53-47), but the Wolfpack slashed the deficit to one point three times (54-53 at 7:54, 55-54 at 7:05 and 58-57 at 6:37) before going ahead, 59-58, on two Richard Howell (12 points) free throws with 5:59 to go in the game.
The true turning point in the game came when Scott Wood checked in for T.J. Warren at the 5:02 mark. After the 11th tie of the game -- 64-64 at 4:00 -- Wood hit a three that put the Wolfpack up three with 3:46 left. After the Eagles had again trimmed their deficit to a single point (69-68 at 1:53), Wood sunk another three to give N.C. State a four-point cushion, 72-68, with 50 seconds left.
Olivier Hanlan (10 points) missed a three with 37 seconds left, but the Eagles caught a break on a deadball foul. Lonnie Jackson (11 points) could not capitalize on the fresh opportunity, missing a jumper, but Anderson (22 points, 13 rebounds) grabbed the offensive board and slammed it home while getting the foul call. After converting on the three-point play, bringing BC within one at 72-71, Wood was fouled and made both free throws to put N.C. State up three.
Rodney Purvis (19 points) committed a foul on the other end, hacking Patrick Heckmann on a three-point attempt with 19 seconds remaining, but Heckmann could only make two free throws. Following two more Wood free throws, Rahon missed a potential game-tying three with one second left, and Wood tacked on two more free throws -- his fifth and sixth since 0:27 of the second half -- to seal the game. Wood finished with 12 points, all in the second half.
Free throws ultimately proved to be Boston College's demise, in more ways than one. In addition to Wood's perfect 6-for-6 afternoon from the charity stripe, the Eagles made a mediocre 24-of-37 free throws (64.9 percent).
"We're a better foul shooting team than that. That's something that we have to do," said Donahue. "I wish, there's a couple things I could have done better that's going through my head, but I'm proud of our effort and proud of the guys. We're going to go on the road and try to win some games on the road now."
Boston College resumes ACC play against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. ET. (TV/Radio: NESN/WEEI). N.C. State returns home to host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
For more Boston College basketball coverage, visit our blog, BC Interruption.