Akil Mitchell played well against BC again, but the Hoos lost.
Life on the ACC road has not been kind to the Virginia men’s basketball team, particularly after big home wins. That unfortunate pattern continued Sunday afternoon in the northeast. Fresh off an upset of No. 3 Duke on Thursday night, the Cavaliers sputtered down the stretch and fell 53-52 at Boston College. UVa owns a 2-6 record away from home this conference season.
The trend has been frustrating for the Hoos. They opened ACC play with a victory against North Carolina, but then fell in a close one at Wake Forest. They took down then ranked NC State, but then went cold late in an Atlanta loss to Georgia Tech. They blew out rival Virginia Tech, but got seduced into a track meet in a loss at UNC.
Then there was Sunday’s setback at BC. The Cavaliers led 49-41 with 4:26 remaining in the game, but couldn’t make the plays needed to finish the job as the Eagles closed on a 12-3 run to win.
“I thought we played well enough to get the victory in the second half. I thought we were a little lackadaisical in the first half,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told reporters after the game. “In the second half we put ourselves certainly in position to come away with it so that stings even more when you feel it slipped through your hands. Whether it’s a turnover, a shot that leads to a lay-up, or a missed free throw, just the little things we had to do to win on the road we didn’t do.”
UVa appeared to stymie Boston College’s late surge as it grabbed a 51-46 lead on a one-handed jam by Akil Mitchell when Joe Harris drove and dropped it off to his junior teammate. A series of breakdowns in execution in the final two minutes, however, erased a chance at a road win.
First, the Cavaliers didn’t stop a block-to-block pass in their Pack Line post trap defense. Harris rotated too late from the top to cut off the pass to Eddie Odio, who bumped off a deflection attempt from Harris and dunked the ball to make it 51-48. To make matters worse, that play finished with just 2 seconds on the shot clock. On the next offensive possession, Virginia went to Harris and Mitchell in a side screen-and-roll situation again but this time the defense sealed off Mitchell and kept Harris’ dribble in front of the defense. When Harris pulled up for a short jumper, Odio blocked the shot in the lane; teammate Olivier Hanlan grabbed the rebound and raced to the other end for a transition lay-up that made it 51-50.
Still, the visitors appeared to be in good shape to control the outcome when Jontel Evans snared a loose ball rebound and called a timeout with 33.5 seconds remaining. BC needed to foul since the shot clock had been turned off. The Cavaliers eventually passed the ball to Harris out of a second timeout, but he missed the second of two one-and-one free throws that left his team with a 52-50 edge. That, of course, meant a 3-pointer could win the game for Boston College.
Out of its own timeout, that’s exactly what BC produced. Harris contained the drive of Patrick Heckmann, but he spotted Joe Rahon on the left wing behind the arc. Virginia’s defense lost vision on the back side of the play and couldn’t recover out in time to bother the shot. Rahon drained the triple and drew the foul from Evan Nolte .
Rahon missed the free throw and that gave the Cavaliers one last chance to win with 8.2 seconds to play as they secured the rebound. With one timeout in its pocket, UVa decided not to stop the action after calling its desired play options in the previous timeout huddle. Evans pushed the ball up the floor, attacked the right side, and then dribbled it off his foot on the baseline to end the Hoos’ hopes.
Tony Bennett said the team had a play called for the final seconds.
Bennett said the team has practiced that scenario and elected to bypass the timeout as a result.
“We had one timeout. We had our play call in and he had switched a few times to a zone coming out [of timeouts],” Bennett said. “Not that we don’t have a play against a zone, but I was just kind of watching and I thought let’s get our call that we work on. … Perhaps I should have called timeout, but my reasoning behind it was off the miss I thought we might be able to get something.”
While the closing sequence essentially did decide the outcome, the Eagles did statistically trump the Cavs in many areas. BC shot 46.3% (50.0% in the second half) to top Virginia’s 42.6%. BC won the rebounding battle 26-25. BC made more free throws (8 of 11 vs. 5 of 7) too.
Mitchell led Virginia UVa with 16 points (8-11 shooting) and 8 rebounds, while Harris added 14 points (4-11 shooting), 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Paul Jesperson added 9 points (3-6 shooting), while Evans had 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Rahon led Boston College with 15 points, while Hanlan added 13. Heckmann finished with 9, while Odio and Ryan Anderson tallied 8 points each. Only the starters scored for the Eagles.
The Cavaliers get one final chance to solve their road woes with a trip to Florida State on Thursday. That game is scheduled for 7 p.m. UVa won the first meeting in Charlottesville, 56-36.
“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing all year. We hit a big high with the Duke win at home and then a tough loss here,” Mitchell said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “It should refocus us. We have to lock in on who we are and we’ve got a few days to prepare. … Me as a leader, I’ve got to do a better job of getting us prepared and getting us ready to go. We’ll be fine though.”