Assane Sene had a strong outing with 11 points and 5 blocks.
After rallying in what became an entertaining seesaw battle at Boston College on Wednesday night, the Virginia men’s basketball team could not come up with the critical plays in the final minutes and fell 70-67 in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The Cavaliers have dropped three straight ACC games and own a 1-3 mark in league play after defeating Virginia Tech in the conference opener.
This one stings because the Hoos had a golden opportunity to steal a road win against a team tied for second place in the ACC standings.
“I told our guys in the locker room after the game that I’m disappointed, but not discouraged,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said in The Daily Progress. “I thought our guys played a more thorough second half and battled and hung in there. There were certainly some positives to point out.”
While they did hang in there, the Cavaliers certainly will spend some time in film study after several key breakdowns in the final two minutes helped BC get the win. The mistakes followed a Joe Harris 3-pointer tied the game at 62-62, which capped a frantic stretch that saw the lead change hands four times and the score tied twice. Unfortunately, the Hoos couldn’t create one final flip-flop on the scoreboard.
The first missteps came on defense where Boston College capitalized out of a timeout. The Eagles set up a backdoor cut from the corner and Biko Paris got behind Sammy Zeglinski before he was fouled by Harris, who rotated over a moment too late as the helpside defender. Paris’ two free throws gave BC the lead for good, though UVa did have chances to tie things up again.
That’s where the other issues came into play. Offensively, the Cavaliers seemed uncertain of what they were trying to do and it led to Jontel Evans trying to create off the dribble in traffic multiple times in the final 1:30. On his first miss, Boston College’s Corey Raji came up with the rebound and made two free throws when Evans fouled him trying to grab the ball in the battle for the board. That foul allowed the hosts to make it a two possession game when Raji made the two freebies. Moments later, Evans again tried to drive and score, but this time Assane Sene grabbed the rebound and scored to cut the lead to 66-64 with approximately 40 seconds to play.
UVa opted not to foul immediately out of the timeout, but the fullcourt pressure didn’t force a turnover. Boston College crossed halfcourt and called its own timeout. That’s where another miscue came into play – after that inbounds play, Virginia let 11 more seconds tick off the clock before fouling Reggie Jackson, the ACC’s second-leading scorer. He made both shots and with just 16 seconds to play, the Hoos searched for a 3-pointer for several seconds before Zeglinski made a long-range jumper to cut the lead to 68-67 with 4.6 seconds to go. The last gasp surge fell short, however, when BC successfully inbounded the ball and Jackson made two more free throws with 2.8 seconds left. Jackson ended up with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.
“We went toe to toe in the second half, but then had little mental errors,” Mustapha Farrakhan said in The Daily Progress. “Ultimately, you have to know how to finish out a game.”
The late mistakes erased what had been a solid second-half effort for the Cavs, who trailed by six points at halftime. The Eagles built a 13-point lead in the first half thanks to a 22-4 run over 7-plus minutes. Seniors Joe Trapani, who put together two traditional 3-point plays during the run, and Paris, who capped the 22-4 surge with a 3-pointer, did most of the damage for the hosts. Trapani finished with 18 points and 6 rebounds, while Paris added 12.
Despite that run, BC couldn’t shake the Cavaliers. After hanging in the game with around a 10-point deficit, the visitors closed the half with a 13-6 scoring surge to trail 34-28 at intermission. KT Harrell bookended the run with a pair of 3-pointers. The first came on a drive-and-kick opportunity with Farrakhan dialing up the assist; the second closed the half in the final two seconds when Zeglinski spotted Harrell alone in the corner where he drained the triple.
That late first-half burst was part of a strong overall outing for Harell and Farrakhan, who joined Harris and Sene with notable stat lines. Harrell finished with 13 points, while Farrakhan extended his career-high streak of double-figure scoring to five straight games with 14 points and a career-high 7 rebounds. Harris added 11. Sene, meanwhile, had arguably the best conference game as a Cavalier with a career-high 11 points and a career-high-tying 5 blocked shots. He also had 9 rebounds.
It wasn’t enough, however, as a potential upset on the road slipped away. The Hoos will try to get back on track in ACC play when Georgia Tech visits the John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday.
“Coach [Ritchie] McKay talked about after the game how we’ve had the toughest road ACC play of anyone. I mean nobody has gone to [Virginia] Tech and to Cameron [for Duke so] we’ve played three really tough games on the road,” Harris told the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “Getting back home will be really nice. The students are back. They’re all back in school. It’s a big ACC game for us at home against Georgia Tech.”