As we know…they didn’t. It was a great game and a tough loss. So is this a moral victory? No. BC is too experienced to feel good about coming close. However, I did think there was a lot of good to take away from this game.
BC kept it close. This might tread into moral victory territory, but considering this team came back against the best team in the conference with Craig Smith in foul trouble and then went basket for basket at the end, it showed a lot of heart. For every mistake late, (McLain getting beat off the missed foul shot), there was a key heads up play (Haynes steal followed by Hinnant’s timeout). I don’t think BC is the best team in the conference but I now have confidence they can beat anyone on any night and can dig themselves out of big holes. I take solace in the key minutes from McLain and Haynes. We will need them this year and certainly next year.
Jared Dudley. This was reminiscent of some of his big games last year. He did the little things (rebounding) calming guys down, firing the crowd up. And he did the big things like making some big 3s and hitting six of his seven foul shots. Hopefully his mini-slump is over. This might sound silly coming off a loss, but I really believe that as long as BC has Dudley, we have the ability to beat any team in the country.
The atmosphere at Conte. Getting up for the big games has never been a problem for BC fans. It is usually the middle-tier games where our fans sit on their hands. But if BC is ever going to change the fan culture, it will be by building off of the big games. Last night’s “Solid Gold” effort was a good first step.
ACC Officials. I hate whining about the refs…but I am going to do it again. Skinner mentioned the disparity in foul shooting and the Smith calls were questionable, but you know things are unfair when the biggest Duke homer of all time -- Dick Vitale -- screams at the non call on Rice with seconds left in the game. I know a lot of Tech fans and their response to me after this game: “welcome to the ACC.”
The strategy after the Haynes steal. I am not going to hammer Al for this. His strategy is pretty consistent. When BC is down late, he always goes for the easy basket and then fouls. Yet like my criticism of TOB, I think you need to be able to vary form your plan once in a while. I know the 3 is the low percentage shot and he had a small lineup with only one rebounder (Dudley) but sometimes you have to say what the hell. Duke is so solid from the line that you are just going to run out of time doing going for 2 and fouling. If Rice, Dudley or Hinnant had missed a 3 with 18 seconds left, I don’t think you would hear many complaints from BC fans.
After the game, Andy Katz said this contest was important for both teams. Duke pulled out a close one and BC showed they are as good as promised. I agree. If anything, I am glad that it was so close at the end. BC’s last two seasons ended with late game mistakes. Maybe this experience will pay dividends in March.