GREENSBORO, N.C. — When Boston College coach Steve Donahue looked up during the last media timeout, the scoreboard simplified everything.
It didn’t matter that BC was in the bonus.
It didn’t matter that Miami was shooting 63 percent for the half.
It didn’t matter that fresh off the biggest scoring explosion the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament had seen in 43 years, Eagles guard Olivier Hanlan had a meager 11 points.
“It was basically a three-minute game,” Donahue said.
Falling into a 13-point hole in the first half the day after falling into a 15-point hole didn’t matter anymore. Neither did the 19-4 run BC used to climb out of it. It was about which team would falter and which one would finish.
“You get a sense of urgency down the stretch any time the game is so close,” BC captain Ryan Anderson said. “In my head, I was just thinking we’ve been through so many close games.”
They knew how much mistakes cost.
When Anderson lost the handle on a pass into the paint, it was clear from the grimace on his face that he knew his team would pay for it.
When BC broke down on defense, and let Miami guard Shane Larkin wheel around screens to get open for a 3-pointer that made it 60-55, Anderson knew those kinds of lapses lose games.
When the Eagles went to the line and came up empty, Anderson knew they were shooting themselves out of the tournament.
“It was just the mental breakdowns at the end of the game,” he said.
With veterans who handled clutch situations with routine calm, Miami made its final four shots from the floor plus five free throws, and finished on a 14-3 run, brushing the Eagles out in the quarterfinals, 69-58, and serving up the last in a season full of lessons.
“We just didn’t execute,” Donahue said. “We did a poor job and I said to these guys, ‘Winners want the truth. That’s the truth.’ You spin it any way you want, but if you want to win that basketball game, you’ve got to execute better. We didn’t and they did.”
Larkin (20 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) crossed almost every aspect of an all-around game off the checklist.
The guarantee of an NCAA Tournament bid allowed top-seeded Miami to come into the ACC tournament relatively stress-free, and it played like it had no reason to ease off the pedal.
“We have seniors and experience so we didn’t wilt,” Larkin said. “We stayed together. Coach [Jim Larranaga] brought us in, and was like, ‘Pull together, now! Three minutes!’ And we did.”
Hanlan knew he was coming in a marked man after his 41-point breakout against Georgia Tech in the opening round. When they watched the highlights, Larkin and teammate Durand Scott, two of the better defenders in the conference, saw their target.
“They take great pride in their defense,” Larranaga said. “They obviously watched the game [Thursday] and saw Olivier Hanlan set an ACC record for a freshman with 41 points, and that motivates them.”
They denied him the ball, they pushed him off the 3-point line, and they put roadblocks in his driving lanes. He finished with 14 points.
“It’s very difficult to come back from that type of performance and not expect one of the best defensive teams in the country to put you on lockdown,” Donahue said.
Even with Hanlan on the outside looking in, the Eagles held Miami to 31 percent shooting in the first half, and went into the locker room up, 27-25. Then the screw slowly started to loosen.
Eddie Odio rolled his ankle trying to make the kind of play he’s become known for. He leaped to get a hand in Julian Gamble’s face with 15:33 left in the second half, but on the way down landed on Gamble’s foot. Odio hit the floor.
Soon after, he walked to the training room under his own power. Five minutes later, Odio came back.
But as Odio was walking back to the bench, Patrick Heckmann was walking away from it, grabbing at his left arm after Scott landed on it in a scramble.
When Heckmann returned it was 48-48 with 6:49 left. And then 55-55.
BC’s four straight wins coming in didn’t seem to matter as much in the moment. The growth of a young team took a back seat to the sting of a loss that typified their 16-17 season.
“This whole year we’ve been changing, we’ve been learning more about ourselves as a team and as players,” said freshman guard Joe Rahon. “It’s only going to help us in the future.”
. . .
In a night quarterfinal in Greensboro, Maryland upset second-seeded Duke, 83-74, behind a career-high 30 points from Dez Wells. Wells was 9 of 13 from the field and 10 of 10 from the free throw line to lead the seventh-seeded Terrapins (22-11) to their second win over the Blue Devils (27-5) this season.
Earlier, Scott Wood had 23 points and seven 3-pointers to help fifth-seeded North Carolina State beat Virginia, 75-56. C.J. Leslie added 17 points for the fifth-seeded Wolfpack (24-9).
In the final game, P.J. Hairston scored 21 points to help third-seeded North Carolina beat No. 6 seed Florida State, 83-62. The Tar Heels (23-9) took control with a 13-0 run early in the second half. UNC plays Maryland Saturday.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.