Eagles again feel pressure
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Joe Trapani had seen the show before — same venue, almost same script — but unfortunately for the Boston College forward and his teammates, it was the same ending in last night’s Atlantic Coast Conference game against Florida State.
The Eagles came to the Tucker Center with visions of maintaining their first-place status in the ACC. They came with hopes of picking off a road victory against a quality team, which would make their résumé look more attractive to the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
But like a year ago, when they matched the Seminoles in the first half before being worn down by Florida State’s defensive pressure, they came up short again, as the Seminoles turned a 29-27 halftime lead into a 67-51 victory.
If Trapani felt a sense of deja vu, it was with good reason. A year ago, the Eagles and Seminoles were tied, 30-30, at halftime, but Florida State used a second-half spurt to coast to a 62-47 victory.
A year ago, the Eagles made only 6 of 26 shots (23.1 percent) in the second half. Last night, they made only 8 of 23 shots (34.8 percent) in the second half as Florida State used an eight-minute stretch to turn a 40-37 lead into a 60-43 bulge.
A year ago, Trapani had a big first half but fizzled in the second half with the rest of his teammates. Last night, Trapani scored 14 of his 19 points in the first half, but was shut down, as were his teammates, as Florida State improved to 15-5, 5-1, tied for first in the conference with Duke.
But Trapani had a legitimate excuse. Like BC point guard Biko Paris, Trapani was hit with a stomach virus an hour before the game. Paris never made it to the court. Trapani did, but at a cost. “I came out not feeling good and I had no energy,’’ he said.
For the first 20 minutes, you could hardly tell anything was wrong. Even without Paris, coach Steve Donahue mixed and matched his defenses and substitution patterns nearly flawlessly. Trapani, despite his weakened condition, made 5 of 9 shots and grabbed seven rebounds.
But Donahue knew he needed more against a Florida State defense that had shut down then-No. 1 Duke in the second half two weeks ago. “In a game like this, I thought we had to force them into 20 turnovers to win [the Seminoles had 13],’’ said Donahue. “They wore us down in the second half. They sensed we were getting a little fatigued and their killer instinct was good.’’
The Eagles tried, kept looking for some edge, something to at least hold off Florida State’s surge as long as possible.
“We knew they were going to make a second-half run,’’ said guard Reggie Jackson, who was limited to 3 points (all on free throws) in the first half and finished with 13 points. “We felt we had to get up by at least 6 to withstand what they were going to do.’’
The Eagles never even got the lead in the second half. After five minutes of sparring in which the Eagles kept within a 3-pointer of the Seminoles, the surge that Jackson feared came — slowly and steadily.
Florida State turned a 3-point lead into a 6-point edge, which became a 12-point margin with 8:17 left. “We started missing our shots and they just kept coming at us,’’ said Jackson. “They are one of the best defensive teams in the nation. They just did a great job on us tonight.’’
Said Donahue, who had to deal with foul problems as the game wore on, as well as playing without Paris, “For long stretches I thought we did a good job, but they created a lot of havoc.’’
For BC, the havoc might well continue. Its next two games are at Duke Thursday night and home against always-dangerous North Carolina a week from Tuesday.
A loss to a quality team such as Florida State is not an indication of a trend. But it is a warning sign that the season could change direction quickly.
At 14-6, 4-2, BC’s record still has some glitter. Winning last night certainly would have increased that.
“It was the same story as last year,’’ grumbled Trapani, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. “I wanted to come down here and get a win.’’