Give Eagles credit for progress

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Four different times, unprompted each time, Boston College coach Al Skinner made less than subtle references to his dissatisfaction with the way the whistle blew in Saturday's 61-57 loss to Florida State at Conte Forum.

A dead-ball foul called on reserve center Cortney Dunn sent Florida State's Ryan Reid to the free-throw line with just over a minute to go, and Reid tied the game at 54 with his first free throw. He missed the second shot, but the Eagles never led again.

"The players should decide the game," said Skinner, whose BC team fell to 3-5 in the ACC. "I'm not sure if that was the case. When you put someone on the line on an out-of-bounds play for a bump, as physical as that game was, that's unfortunate."

It's easy to debate Skinner's interpretation. After Reid missed the second free throw, Dunn snatched the rebound to give the Eagles possession with the game still tied. Guard Reggie Jackson then lost control on his drive into the lane, and the Seminoles turned the ensuing loose ball into a dagger of a Derwin Kitchen 3-pointer.

One two separate occasions before that, missed free throws turned into Florida State offensive rebounds and, eventually, Florida State points. The Seminoles finished with 15 offensive rebounds against a team that leads the ACC with a rebounding margin of plus-6.6.

"We ended up not getting to the line that much, but we also didn't box out when they were at the line and missed their shots," said BC forward Joe Trapani, who finished with 15 points and a team-best seven rebounds. "We can't blame the officials."

No coach can blame officials, of course, in a game decided by 15 or 20 points. Skinner only could get away with his gripes because Boston College still had a chance to win in the final minute -- and that, for this team, represents progress.

After three demoralizing losses to ACC opponents in early January, Boston College has put itself in position to win each of its last four games down the stretch. Bad decisions cost the Eagles wins at Virginia Tech last week and against Florida State on Saturday, but those losses represent progress when measured against three straight lopsided defeats at Clemson and Duke and at home against Maryland.

The effort is there. A winning streak hasn't come with that effort, but the effort still is there. A Boston College team that once looked like it had given up on its season has gone toe-to-toe with each of its last four opponents.

"You've got to give yourself a chance," said Skinner, who two weeks ago pronounced himself baffled by the lack of effort he was seeing from his team. "No one said that just because we play better, we're going to automatically win. We want to compete, and that's what we're trying to do. That's what guys are doing. We've just got to make a couple of plays at the end."

Even after Kitchen hit his 3-pointer, the Eagles had chances to make plays. Jackson even called a smart timeout in the final minute rather than inbounding the ball into traffic -- something the Eagles did at Virginia Tech, costing themselves possession when referees ruled a held ball rather than awarding Biko Paris the timeout for which he was pleading.

(Suffice to say, Skinner took issue with that call, too.)

After that, though, Jackson tried to split two defenders in the lane and took an extra step before he could throw a kick-out pass to the corner. Even in the closing seconds, when a basket and a steal was the only hope Boston College had left, Jackson took three or four extra dribbles and threw a pass to Rakim Sanders in the corner as time expired.

"We just didn't get the clean shot and weren't as aggressive going to the basket as I thought we should have been," Skinner said. "We didn't get the good looks at the basket I thought we should have. We had a couple of passes to make, but the passes weren't delivered well. Those are plays you've got to make."

Even as Florida State was shooting 65 percent from the field in the second half, Boston College still made some plays at the defensive end of the court. After failing to do anything with 7-foot-1 center Solomon Alabi on the block on back-to-back possessions, Dunn blocked an Alabi layup on the glass to set up a Corey Raji layup at the other end. In a key spot in a back-and-forth game, the reserve center made the type of play that would have looked like a game-changer if the Eagles had come out on top.

Lackluster effort had left Boston College without a chance to make game-changing plays at Clemson and Duke and even at home against Maryland. The Eagles on Saturday looked nothing like they'd looked earlier this month -- and that's something that had nothing to do with the officials.

Brian MacPherson is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. His e-mail address is brianrmacpherson@gmail.com.