Irish win wild, must-win game against Boston College in overtime
Nate Moller | Thursday, February 17, 2022
In a thrilling back-and-forth game, Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion, the Irish (19-7, 12-3 ACC) prevailed against the Boston College Eagles (9-15, 4-10 ACC) by a score of 99-95 in overtime. The Irish had six players finish with double-digit points in graduate student forward Paul Atkinson Jr., freshman guard Blake Wesley, senior guard Prentiss Hubb, senior guard Cormac Ryan, senior guard Dane Goodwin and senior forward Nate Laszewski. The Irish finished the game shooting 49% from the floor and 39% from the three-point line.
The Irish offense came out firing on all cylinders early on Wednesday night, and they were led by Dane Goodwin, who led the team with 23 points on the night. The defense struggled early, though, and the Eagles ended up with a lead after the first 20 minutes of play. The Eagles were lights out from the floor early, shooting 61% from the floor and 44% from beyond the arc in the first half.
After the game, head coach Mike Brey gave the Eagles credit for their offense, but he said he was proud of his team’s ability to keep fighting despite the Eagles’ shooting.
“Give them credit. Offensively, they shot it and made some tough shots,” Brey said. “We never got discouraged even though they shot well tonight.”
The Irish managed to score on their first three possessions to get an early 8-4 lead, but the Eagles continued to answer through the first six minutes of play to keep pace with the Irish. Dane Goodwin led the Irish with 10 points in the first five and a half minutes to give the Irish a 16-13 lead at the under-16 timeout.
Goodwin said he thought he played a physical game and he was happy with the looks he saw in the first half.
“It’s always good to get some open looks, and I got some open looks in the first half, and thankfully they went in,” Goodwin said.
The Eagles got hot at the end of the half to go on a quick 7-1 run and tie the game up at 29 apiece. Makai Ashton-Langford led the Eagles early, scoring 10 points off 4-of-6 shooting from the floor in the first half.
The end of the first half was filled with action, as both teams continued to stay hot from the floor and score with ease. Over the final four minutes of the first half, there were eight lead changes in total, but the Eagles took a 43-39 lead into the half on the back of DeMarr Langford Jr., who finished the half with 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the floor.
Brey knew at halftime that it was going to be a tough day for his team’s defense and that the offense would have to step up to get a victory.
“We had a hard time handling [them driving] and guarding that. I don’t know if we were as focused defensively as we have been,” Brey said. “At halftime, we tried to get them going defensively, but I knew we were going to have to score to escape.”
Both teams continued to shoot well out of the gates in the second half. Over the first five minutes of the second half, the Irish got three-point buckets from Goodwin, Laszewski and Wesley, but the Eagles continued to stay hot. The game went back and forth with the lead changing multiple times during the middle of the half.
The Irish grabbed a 67-62 lead with just over eight minutes to play, but the Eagles kept fighting and went on a 10-2 run to grab a 72-69 lead. Paul Atkinson ended the run by knocking down two free throws, but the Eagles made another three moments later to take a 75-71 lead.
After the teams traded free throws, a bad turnover by Cormac Ryan led to an easy layup by the Eagles, and they grabbed a 78-73 lead. Nate Laszewski then took over during the next three possessions to make six consecutive points and pull the Irish within one at 80-79. Wesley tied the game at 80 on a free throw moments later, but Makai Ashton-Langford knocked down a mid-range jumper to give the lead back to the Eagles. The Irish then got to the line on back-to-back possessions and made all four free throws to pull ahead 84-82 with 55 seconds to play. The Eagles then tied it up yet again with two free throws of their own with 43 seconds to play.
With 13 seconds to play, Blake Wesley got the ball underneath and made a tough layup to give the Irish an 86-84 lead. The Eagles answered quickly, though, with Ashton-Langford going coast to coast to tie it up at 86 apiece. Wesley got a last-second look, but he missed the mid-range jumper, and the game went to overtime.
In overtime, free throws proved key for the Irish, as the Irish knocked down 9-of-10 from the line to help them secure the victory. It started with Paul Atkinson and Nate Laszewski, who both made both of their free throws, to give the Irish a 90-86 lead. Although the Eagles continued to stay within striking distance, they never led in overtime. They got within one point of the Irish with 39 seconds to play, but Prentiss Hubb made a crazy shot off the boards to give the Irish a three-point lead. Hubb ultimately closed out the game by making four free throws over the last seven seconds of the game.
Brey praised Hubb for his leadership and outstanding play down the stretch.
“He makes us believe in what he talks about in the huddles and what he talks about in the timeouts,” Brey said. “He is such a winner. He’s not afraid, and he senses the moment for us. There’s an ‘it’ factor that you cannot coach.”
The Irish finished an outstanding 33-of-39 from the free-throw line, which was vital in Wednesday’s nail-biting game.
Goodwin discussed how important free throw shooting will be going forward.
“That’s obviously a huge weapon,” he said. “If we continue to get into those situations under five minutes, it’s great to know we can rely on the foul line and make those shots when we have to. I don’t think we are ever nervous, and we made those shots at the line when we needed to.”
The Irish lost to Boston College 73-57 in December, and Dane Goodwin said he believes Wednesday night’s win shows just how much the team has grown since that loss.
“I think this [win] speaks to our resiliency as a team and where we have grown,” Goodwin said. “Coming together in that second half, we really dug down deep and found a way to pull it off.”
Hubb acknowledged that the Irish have veterans who have been in tight games before, which he said he believes helped lead the Irish to victory on Wednesday.
“It attests to the maturity level of our team,” he said. “We got a lot of older guys on the team, and throughout this whole year, we have been in countless game situations where it came down to the last three minutes of the game. I think that we have been in enough situations that even when the game is still tight and we are down, we know we can still win.”
Brey also credited the win to the poise of this team.
“It’s a neat group. They’re very poised in the timeout,” Brey said. “They really believe they should finish games because they have finished a lot.”
With the win, the Irish keep pace with Duke atop the ACC standings. They will return to action on Saturday at 1 p.m. when they face Wake Forest in a game that has big implications for the ACC standings and NCAA tournament.