The Three-Pointer: Eagles lose momentum in Raleigh

March 07, 2010 - 2:29 pm

Sunday afternoon'€™s game had little merit for either Boston College or North Carolina State. The Eagles already were slotted into the eighth spot in the ACC tournament, which begins Thursday, and the Wolfpack likewise knew that they faced a tough-task as the 11th out of 12 teams in the field. This one was about momentum, and Al Skinner'€™s team lost it after falling in Raleigh, N.C., 66-54. The loss dropped the Eagles back to .500 at 15-15 (6-10 in the ACC), hurting the team'€™s hopes for an NIT bid. The Eagles had come into the game playing solid ball as of late, winning three of their last four games. But BC faded in the final minutes of a close game, as the Wolfpack'€™s Dennis Horner celebrated senior day by hitting two big 3-pointers to help NC State ice the game, getting vengeance for a nasty cut around his eye caused by a hit from BC'€™s Josh Southern on a drive to the bucket earlier in the half. NC State big man Tracy Smith led all players with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Horner and C.J. Williams both finished with 14 points, helping to improve NC State'€™s record to 17-14 (5-11 ACC). The Eagles were paced by Rakim Sanders, who had 11 points, five rebounds and five assists on the day. Tyler Roche, playing in his last regular-season game for BC, also had 11 points and played much of the second half after Corey Raji appeared to suffer a shoulder injury at the tail end of the first half. Here are three things we learned from BC's troublesome final tuneup before ACC tournament action. ROAD WOES CONTINUE BC began the day with a 3-6 road record, with the latest setback coming Feb. 27 at Georgia Tech. Of those three victories, two had come early in the season in back-to-back games at Michigan and Providence, and only one came in ACC play: a 79-75 comeback win over Miami on Jan. 19. With the ACC tournament being played in Greensboro, N.C., this was the perfect time for the Eagles to gain some confidence away from Conte Forum, and in North Carolina. However, BC could not get anything going offensively down the stretch, while at the same time collapsing on defense. The Wolfpack used this to their advantage, outscoring the Eagles 16-4 in the last five minutes after the score was tied at 50, and hitting their last eight shots. BC has played some of the better teams in the ACC tough at home '€” the Eagles beat Clemson 75-69, nearly upset No. 4 Duke in a 66-63 loss on Feb. 6 and squandered an opportunity against Florida State a week earlier in a 61-57 loss. But the road has not been so kind against those same teams, as all three handed the Eagles double-digit losses away from Conte Forum. Though the tournament games will be played on a neutral floor, a potential second-round matchup with Duke looms if the Eagles can get by Virginia Thursday. You have to think that BC would have felt better about its chances with a win in a hostile environment Sunday. STEP RIGHT IN, PLEASE There might exist an even bigger problem for BC when it meets Virginia in the first round of the ACC tournament: the status of Corey Raji. The junior had quietly been playing some of his best basketball as of late, averaging almost 15 points over the last four games heading into Sunday. But he did not play in the second half against NC State, as he clearly looked to be in pain when the buzzer sounded at the end of the first 20 minutes. If Raji is burdened by an injury, Roche may be called upon to play the bulk of his minutes as he did on Sunday. He had seven of his 11 points in the second half against the Wolfpack, finishing the day 5-of-8 from the field. Roche had a career-night vs. Wake Forest, finishing with 31 points in the place of the ill Joe Trapani. Even if Raji can play, BC will need Roche to provide a punch off the bench in Greensboro. He is one of the team's best outside shooters and can get into a groove if he gets the opportunity. With Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup, the Eagles need Roche to give them solid minutes off the bench. BIG GUNS DENIED The Eagles lack the offensive firepower to score when Jackson has a bad game. When Jackson and Trapani struggle? Forget it. BC had its lowest scoring effort in ACC play Sunday against a team not named Florida State (the Seminoles are the best defensive team in the conference, and one of the best in the nation) with 54 points on the day. The Eagles actually shot 45 percent from the field, but they were just 3-for-16 from beyond the arc. Trapani was just 3-for-7 on the day, although he did finish with nine points. Jackson, on the other hand, never really seemed to get things going. He was called for two offensive fouls in the first seven minutes and had to sit the rest of the half. Biko Paris came in and could not find his shot, as he has continued to struggle to adjust to his role off the bench. In the second half, Jackson was not much better. He did hit a nice jumper and finished off a lob pass from Rakim Sanders for a pretty three-point play, but he was just 3-for-8 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range on the day. It was the third time in the last four games that Jackson did not finish with double-digit points, though the Eagles won the other two over Virginia Tech and Virgina. Still, if the Eagles are going to cause a buzz at the ACC tournament with some upsets, they will need both Trapani and Jackson to be at their best.