A pair of thundering fast-break dunks from Jairus Hamilton in the final minute sealed the 71–68 victory for Boston College men’s basketball over NC State on Sunday night.
The crowd packed inside of Conte Forum was significantly more energetic than most BC home games. Even more unusual was that the crowd was coming in support of BC rather than a big-name opponent.
The Eagles came out strong, looking to bounce back from their tough Wednesday night loss against last-place Miami.
After allowing NC State to take the lead early, the Eagles went ahead two minutes in. They would hold onto that lead for all of the next 35 minutes.
The Wolfpack employed the full-court press early in an effort to cool down the Eagles’ hot shooting. While NC State had a great size advantage, BC’s superior athleticism rendered the press ineffective. They were able to extend their lead to as much as 14, forcing NC State into half-court defense shortly thereafter.
NC State’s size proved instrumental to their success on the boards early. They were able to grab seven offensive rebounds to BC’s one. Still, they were unable to capitalize, only producing four second-chance points in the half.
Steffon Mitchell played a major role in BC’s success. Mitchell only contributed four points and three rebounds, but his impact was much greater than the stat sheet. His minutes were limited due to early foul trouble, but Head Coach Jim Christian felt it necessary to play him for the final eight minutes despite having four fouls on him.
Christian had high praise for Mitchell, “He calms us down...he’s our best inbounder against the press, he can make plays offensively when he backs guys in, he can make plays like he did earlier in the game, and then obviously the things he does rebounding and on defense.” His play resulted in a game-high +7 plus/minus in only 24 minutes on the court.
Another bright spot for BC was Derryck Thornton’s play. Thornton struggled with efficiency in his last two games, but he led the way with 22 points and only 2 turnovers.
BC finished the first half with a seven-point lead, but the margin got thinner and thinner as the second half progressed. Part of this was due to an apparent knee injury to Jairus Hamilton, who limped off the court just over halfway through. Still, he was able to return to action later in the half.
NC State’s size advantage once again caused major issues for BC in the waning minutes. Manny Bates was able to protect the rim, tallying three blocks in only 10 minutes, and DJ Funderburk slammed down a pair of momentum-changing standing dunks in the final five minutes.
Once NC State regained the lead with three minutes to play, neither team was able to take a multi-possession lead.
With a minute left, Steffon Mitchell was able to steal the ball from Markell Johnson, pass the ball up to Thornton, who would then find Jairus Hamilton for the emphatic dunk to give the Eagles a 69–66 lead. Not to be outdone, NC State came right back down the court and got the ball to Jericole Hellems for the layup. The lead was now only one with 50 seconds to play.
Derryck Thornton would then miss his jumper to give NC State a chance to take the lead with only 18 seconds remaining.
With the ability to hold the ball for the last shot, Johnson turned it over again to Steffon Mitchell. The ball seemed as if it was going to bounce out of bounds, but Jay Heath came up with the diving save on the sideline. Heath batted the ball up to Hamilton, who proceeded to slam it down again, making a statement with a flex after slamming down the dagger.
NC State would have one last chance to take the lead with six seconds remaining, but their corner three fell short, allowing BC to walk away with a win.
BC now sits at .500 on the season and only .5 games back of the fifth place in the ACC. With three of their final five games at home, they have every chance to make a run at the NCAA tournament bubble.
First, they will have to travel to Virginia on Wednesday, looking to complete their second series sweep of the season against the Cavaliers.
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