Boston College and Northwestern appeared to be eerily similar on paper: three-point shooting teams who can't play any defense. Yet it was the Wildcats who emerged on top, draining three after three while ripping through the Eagles' defense en route to an 85-67 upset win on Saturday afternoon at Conte Forum in the second round of the 2011 NIT.
"Their guards shot the ball well, they were moving the ball well. They just beat us at our game," said senior forward Joe Trapani, who played his final game as a member of the Eagles on Saturday. "Back doors, second shots, they were definitely better than us today."
Joe Trapani led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds for Boston College (21-13). Naturally, the loss was an emotional one for Trapani, a senior, as it not only brought his season to an end, but also his career in Chestnut Hill.
In the final minute of the game, Eagles fans broke out into a "Joe Trapani" chant to honor their senior leader one last time.
"It was my last game playing college basketball, so I was kind of disappointed that I had to go out like that on my own floor," Trapani said. "But I appreciate the fans. That's great, the people that supported me. I've got nothing but love for Boston College basketball fans."
Michael Thompson scored a game-high 22 points and John Shurna added 20 points for Northwestern, which shot 54.8% for the game (34-for-62), including 61.3% in the second half (19-for-31). In addition, the Wildcats racked up 29 rebounds (10 offensive) and a remarkable 27 assists.
"Obviously, we struggled with anything we tried to plan in," said Boston College head coach Steve Donahue. "We did some zones, did some man. They're a very good basketball team. [Head coach Bill Carmody] has done a great job in 11 years of building that program up. It's just a difficult match-up for us in the sense that they play way different from teams we face, and obviously I know it, but you try to do as much as you can in terms of translating that to your players."
"We had a game plan coming in, but I guess we let them get a little too comfortable," Trapani said. "It's tough when you play one way the whole season and then have to try and tail ourselves to play their game in order to defend them."
Despite losing by 18 points, the Eagles shot 52.2% from the floor (24-for-46) and 33.3% from thee-point range (5-for-15). However, BC was limited to just 20 rebounds (three offensive), 13 assists and turned the ball over 11 times.
"I knew we'd score, I knew we'd shoot over 50% and I knew we'd have a difficult time guarding them, and we did," Donahue said. "More importantly, I felt they hustled to balls more than we did at times and then they do what we try to teach them, convert them into threes."
BC and Northwestern traded baskets throughout the first 15 minutes of the game, but the Wildcats were able to pull away and open up a 10-point lead, 38-28, with 55 seconds left in the opening half. A three from Biko Paris cut the deficit to seven points,38-31, where it would stay heading into halftime.
The Eagles were able to stay within ten points of the Wildcats through the first six minutes of the final half and trailed 54-45 with 13:52 to go. Northwestern closed out the game on a 39-22 run to seal the victory.
Josh Southern scored 12 points and Biko Paris added 11 points for Boston College. Reggie Jackson,an All-ACC First Teamer and the Eagles' leading scorer, was limited to eight points on 2-of-8 shooting in 35 minutes.
Jackson was held scoreless until the 18:45 mark of the second half, when he made two free throws to record his first points of the game. His struggles continued throughout the second half, although Donahue doesn't believe it was a result of a lack of effort from Jackson.
"To be honest, I have a tough time when you talk about college kids not showing up," Donahue said. "He showed up. These kids all tried their best, that's not the issue. They did a terrific job jumping on him early, limiting his penetration. I thought he shared the ball initially and he missed some open shots. But our offense wasn't the issue, Reggie wasn't the issue, obviously the defense was way more the issue today."
Regardless of the painful loss, Donahue is confident that the Eagles can achieve success in the near future.
"No one is going to outwork us," said Donahue. "We're going to work our tails off to bring a championship to Boston College, and I feel as strongly as I did when I got the job as I do today that that can be achieved."