Eagles falter at Duke
BC is done in by second-half fade
DURHAM, N.C. - Reggie Jackson would have been lying if he said he wasn’t aware of his surroundings.
From the moment he stepped on the floor in Cameron Indoor Stadium, customarily wearing his headband so it covered as much of his skull as a yarmulke would, he was a target for the Crazies.
With 9,314 screaming, “Fix your headband,’’ at once, the Boston College sophomore guard at first pretended he couldn’t hear it. But as much as he tried not to give in to the prodding, he couldn’t resist.
He fixed the headband.
“A few times,’’ he said.
But the environment was not the problem in BC’s 79-59 loss to eighth-ranked Duke last night. The first shot Jackson took after the teasing was a deep 3-pointer in front of the Duke bench that tied the score at 14.
The Eagles (10-7, 1-2 ACC) seemed to be bouncing back from Saturday’s loss to Clemson nicely, outshooting the Blue Devils, 50 percent to 48.1 percent, in the first half and even leading, 31-28, at one point.
They were getting production from the bench, mostly from Jackson, who had been told by coach Al Skinner Tuesday that he would return to a reserve role. But also from guard Dallas Elmore, who played the lanes like a safety, stealing a pair of passes and turning them into 5 points.
With the bench providing 18 points, the Eagles were down just 3 at the half, 38-35. They were within sniffing distance in a building where they had never tasted victory.
Then the second half started.
Duke (14-2, 2-1) scored eight straight buckets, a run fueled by Nolan Smith, who finished with a game-high 24 points. BC, which has struggled with ballhandling all year, became careless again, and the Blue Devils converted turnovers into fast-break points.
As they had against Clemson, the Eagles started missing layups, and Duke turned the misses into transition buckets. Before the Eagles could settle themselves, Smith was running fast breaks, throwing alley-oop passes to be hammered down by Kyle Singler (15 points, 10 rebounds) and giving the crazy crowd even more fuel.
“They played to the crowd and the crowd was real hype for them,’’ Jackson said. “They kept executing and pressuring us, and we got away from what we needed to do and they just ran away with the game from there.’’
An 8-0 Duke run snowballed into a 20-6 storm, and the Eagles never again showed signs of being the controlled and focused team they were in the first half.
Asked to explain how they could go to extremes so quickly, Jackson said, “You saw what BC’s seen all year: A tale of two teams.’’
Three games after scoring a dismal 19 points in the second half of a loss to Maine, the Eagles put in just 24 after the break against Duke.
Though he was responsible for three of the Eagles’ 13 turnovers, Jackson was the only Eagle in double figures, with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Biko Paris turned the ball over five times. In all, Duke was able to turn the miscues into 17 points.
“We mishandled the basketball,’’ Skinner said. “We didn’t execute. We missed our free throws. Had a couple of layups, missed those.
“It was just a lack of intensity on our part and obviously that’s the difference in the ballgame. You’ve got to be willing to play 40 minutes and obviously we did not.’’
Most costly were the poor second-half shooting (8 of 22) and the rebounding opportunities Duke was able to capitalize on. The Blue Devils outrebounded BC, 40-27 (18-10 on the offensive glass), and scored 21 second-chance points.
Coming off a loss at Georgia Tech Saturday, Duke made the most of its bounce-back game, while Skinner was at a loss trying to explain his team’s dual identity.
“It’s as bizarre to me as it is to you,’’ Skinner said. “But that being said, we’ve just got to continue to build on what we did that first 20 minutes, and when you talk about focus and intensity, each guy’s got to be responsible for that.’’
But already, there’s a sense the Eagles aren’t meeting the expectations they set for themselves, and with Maryland coming to Conte Forum Saturday, there is an urgency to steady things.
“It’s very frustrating,’’ Jackson said. “We’re playing basically to what polls and everybody’s said, that we’re not a competitor without Tyrese [Rice].
“At the beginning of the year, we thought we’d be better than this. We obviously know that we want to prove the polls wrong, and we want to prove the spectators wrong and the analysts. But so far they’ve been right. We’ve got to get together as a team and change this.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.