BOSTON – Some day Boston College's very young team may become a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference. For now, though, it's learning how to play against the conference's powers.
The Eagles, starting four freshmen, struggled with their shooting and rebounding and lost to No. 5 Duke 75-50 on Sunday night. One of those freshmen, Ryan Anderson, led them with 21 points and eight rebounds.
"It's always frustrating when you execute offensively and you don't get the ball to go in the basket," he said. "I thought it did build up on us a little bit and we'll learn from it."
BC already has shown signs of progress. On Feb. 8, it beat a senior-laden No. 16 Florida State team 64-60 behind 21 points from freshman Jordan Daniels.
"We obviously came out and played pretty well" against Duke, Eagles coach Steve Donahue said. "I thought we continued to execute well through the rest of the first half but we hit a dry spell. ... I thought they did a good job of making sure we didn't get good looks."
Duke started just one freshman, Austin Rivers, and had a big advantage in height and experience.
"We're more physically mature than they are right now," Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I watched about eight of their games. This game worried me so much and I watched that Florida State game twice and I said, 'these kids can beat us.' And I wasn't trying to tell myself fairy tales."
The Blue Devils had come from 20 points behind in the final 11 1/2 minutes to beat North Carolina State 78-73 on Thursday night. Eight days earlier, they had rallied from 10 points down with 2 1/2 minutes left to beat North Carolina 85-84.
But against BC, Duke went ahead for good on a layup by Rivers midway through the first half, 15-13, led 30-21 at intermission and stretched that to 28 points midway through the second half. Seth Curry had 18 points and Rivers 16 for the Blue Devils
"I was really pleased we got a big working margin, but I'm still worried," Krzyzewski said. "I want us to look good all the time. We got a little sloppy there for a minute and then our kids picked it up again. It's not point differential or anything. Whoever's playing, I want them to be sharp."
Duke (23-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) pulled into a tie for the league lead with North Carolina and Florida State with its fourth straight win after a 78-74 overtime loss to Miami. But Krzyzewski doesn't think his team is playing as well as a Top 5 team should, especially after committing 18 turnovers against BC.
"They're a good group. We're just not some type of juggernaut," he said. "We'll have spurts of really good defense. Our rebounding has gotten better. Until today, we were taking really good care of the ball."
Boston College (8-19, 3-10) got 12 points from junior Matt Humphrey and lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
Duke's defense was so effective that the Eagles were held to their lowest point total of the season and went without a basket for more than 14 minutes after taking the 13-7 lead on a 3-pointer by Anderson with 16:34 left in the first half. They didn't get another field goal until a 3 by Humphrey cut the lead to 25-19 with 2:21 to play before the break.
The Blue Devils kept blanketing the Eagles, who didn't get their first basket of the second half until Humphrey hit another 3 with 16:43 left in the game. That was just BC's fourth field goal in a span of just under 20 minutes.
By that time Duke, which scored the first six points after intermission, led 39-25. It was 46-31 when Duke really took control with a 13-0 run that made it 59-31 with 8:16 remaining. It used its long-distance shooting — it leads the ACC in 3-pointers made — to pull away.
Curry started the surge with a four-point play. Ryan Kelly then connected on a straightaway 3 and Andre Dawkins followed with a 3 from the left corner. Curry then finished the run with a three-point play on a driving layup and a free throw.