NEWTON, Mass. -- Steve Donahue likes to say college basketball is a game of runs. If one team makes a few baskets in a row, the other will inevitably do the same.
Saturday’s regular season finale – a 74-72 come-from-behind victory over Georgia Tech at Conte Forum -- played out just that way.
The Yellow Jackets zipped out to an 8-2 lead before Andrew Van Nest, starting on senior day as the Eagles’ lone on-court senior (he’s actually a grad student), brought the Eagles back. The 6-foot-10, 247-pound former Harvard Crimson forward hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key on one possession, then made a driving layup on another.
When he checked out of the game for the first time, he was the Eagles’ leading scorer (with five of their nine points).
The lead volleyed back and forth throughout the first half, with the score tied three times and the lead changing hands six times. As the second half began the Eagles tried to keep things close, but when Marcus Georges-Hunt hit a long 2 from the top of the key they found themselves down 10 with 14:23 to go.
Donahue called time to talk it over.
“We’ve done this,” Donahue said. “It seems like we’ve been down 10 [often]. I said that in the huddle, ‘We’ve been down 10 before.’”
After the timeout, Ryan Anderson lofted a long pass from the top of the key to a streaking Eddie Odio for an alley-oop. That started a string of eight straight points by the sophomore from Miami, to cut into the Yellow Jackets’ lead and give the hosts a jump-start.
BC wasn’t going to let a little thing like a double-digit deficit with just more than 14 minutes to go get in its way.
“It’s our mentality,” Joe Rahon said. “We don’t get down. We play the whole 40 minutes. We know basketball is a long game and 40 minutes is a long time, we’ve gotta grind out for all 40 minutes.
“No one wavered, no one put their head down. We kept believing in each other and kept pushing. We got stops when we needed to, made shots when we needed to and came out with the win.”
It wasn’t quite as simple as that sounds, however. Every time the Eagles made a run at the Yellow Jackets’ lead, the visitors responded and kept the hosts at arm’s length.
But with just under five minutes to go, Rahon found Odio open on the right wing, right in front of the Eagles’ bench. Odio set his feet and let it fly, swishing the 3 to bring the Eagles within three. And though Daniel Miller answered with a jumper on the other end, the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t score again until there were just 25 ticks left on the clock.
By then, Rahon had put the Eagles on his back and carried them into the lead.
The freshman two-guard knew that the defense wasn’t going to collapse on him when he drove the lane, since the Jackets had been burned by Odio several times already when Odio’s man left him to help on Rahon. So he repeatedly took the ball to the basket, converting an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game and then blowing by his defender to put the Eagles up to stay 66-64.
“Coach just told me ‘if they don’t stop you just get to the rim’ and I was able to do that,” said Rahon, who had a team-high 15 points.
And while there were some rocky moments down the stretch, as Georgia Tech (16-14, 6-12 ACC) refused to go away and BC (15-16, 7-11 ACC) made life more difficult for itself with some shaky free throw shooting -- the Eagles missed more freebies (11, on 25 attempts) than the Yellow Jackets took all game (7) -- the regular season ended with a 74-72 win.
“We’re still a young team, but we’ve gotta do what we gotta do to win,” Odio said. “And we did it down the stretch.”
Rahon said their experience, such as the tight win over Virginia last weekend, helped.
“We’ve been talking all season, even when we were losing those close games, like ‘These are gonna help us down the road. We’re gonna be in close games down the road and these are gonna teach us how to win,’” he said.
“We put in the hard work and it’s starting to pay off already this season. Those close games earlier in the year, we learned from them and now we’re pretty good at them.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.