(An outsiders observations about what is going on at Boston College, aka The Heights)
They did most of the things a sellout crowd is expected to do when the No. 1 team in the country is upset.
They rose from their seats and waited for the final seconds to tick off, posting a result no Boston College basketball fan had seen in almost a decade–a victory over Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils.
Then they swarmed onto the court, not sure what to do. After all, no Eagle team had walked off the court with a win over even a team ranked in the Top 25 in nearly two dozen previous encounters.
So on the first snowy Saturday of a winter that is still a few weeks away from officially arriving, Boston College and its fans celebrated at Conte Forum as the Eagles posted an 89-84 victory over No. 1 Duke.
No matter what happens the remainder of the season, BC fans will have this one to cherish for awhile because it was a glimpse into the future that Coach Jim Christian’s team had never quite achieved.
Hell, neither had Steve Donahue’s team before that.
BC finally played a 40 minute game of basketball in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener. Not 30 minutes, not 35 minutes, but a full 40 minutes.
The Eagles are now a healthy 7-3 going into the final portion of their non-conference schedule. Still facing them in the next few weeks are Columbia, Central Connecticut and Richmond, all at home, all winnable games.
Having 10 wins going into the ACC grind which faces BC for the next two months was regarded as essential if the Eagles were going to climb out of the sink hole the program has resided in for the past two seasons when they lost a total of 30 of 32 conference games.
Having a victory over Duke, which lost for the first time this season carries more meaning than a stunning upset. It could be a breakthrough psychological moment for the Eagles.
If they are good enough to beat Duke, they can tell themselves they are good enough to beat any of the remaining teams on their schedule.
The victory in Conte Forum is perhaps even more surprising since for most of the game it was hard to tell who was the home team since the cheers for Duke were as loud and as consistent as those for the Eagles.
But at Conte Forum, that is nothing new from a fan base which has often sat on its hands, when it showed up for game against long time Big East rivals such as UConn, Syracuse and Providence.
Not that BC basketball over the past eight seasons has been worthy of wild enthusiasm or great crowds.
What was different about Saturday was that the Eagles ended the game the same way they started, with a flurry of shots which hit nothing but net, which countered anything Duke could do.
Leading the way was Ky Bowman, who almost had a triple double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
The Eagles came into the game on a down note, having learned earlier in the week that Deontae “Teddy” Hawkins, a graduate transfer from Illinois State would miss the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury.
Hawkins, a 6-foot-8 inch forward, was leading the team in rebounds and was the Eagles third leading scorer and was regarded as the key to giving BC a presence in the front court it had been missing for the past several seasons.
Coming into the game with a week’s rest, it didn’t matter. The Eagles took a double digit lead at halftime by hitting Duke with a three point barrage, which the Devils couldn’t slow down. BC hit 11 of its season high of 15 three-point shots in the first half.
And while the inevitable Duke second half comeback evolved–the Devils even built a 79-75 lead with 3:30 remaining–BC, with Bowman, guard Jerome Robinson, the other half of an ACC quality backcourt BC has developed, and forward Jordan Chatman (22 points) never flinched, never lost its composure.
The Eagles scored 12 of the next 14 points after Duke had taken its four point lead as they came up with a victory which had a tinge of the unusual beyond the upset–it was the third consecutive win over a No. 1 ranked team. The Eagles had pulled off wins over No. 1 North Carolina in 2009 and No. 1 Syracuse in 2014.
Now they have the trifecta, which is more than enough of a reason why there was a warm feeling on a cold afternoon at The Heights.