Court Vision: BC edges Ga. Tech; UNC up next in ACC tourney

Boston College's Olivier Hanlan (25 points on 8 of 19 shooting) also notched eight rebounds and five assists against Georgia Tech.

Bob Donnan

GREENSBORO, N.C. — It was hardly an upset for 12th-seeded Boston College (13-18) to beat No. 13 Georgia Tech in the preliminary round of the ACC tournament.

It was even less surprising for the Yellow Jackets (12-19) to fall without their best player, Marcus Georges-Hunt.

But Boston College trailed for most of the final 10 minutes — until the last 12 seconds, when All-ACC pick Olivier Hanlan hit a bucket to give the Eagles a one-point lead again.

Boston College’s season will continue against No. 5 North Carolina on Wednesday, while the future of Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory remains in doubt.

THREE-POINT TAKE

1. The Brian Gregory era has more than likely come to an end

Georgia Tech is still paying former head coach Paul Hewitt because of a bad contract, and the school extended Gregory’s contract through the 2017-18 season back in November 2013.

At that point, Georgia Tech had finished with its only winning season in the Gregory era (16-15 in the 2012-13 season).

But when it comes down to it, Gregory hasn’t gotten the job done with Georgia Tech, posting a 55-71 overall record and 20-55 in ACC play. As part of that, he’s never won more than six conference games in a season.

For this tournament, the Yellow Jackets weren’t supposed to fare well without Georges-Hunt, their leading scorer, who was lost for the rest of the season with a broken foot against North Carolina last week.

And yet, Tech had a six-point lead with 1:51 to play on Tuesday.

Georgia Tech dropped a number of close ones this season. The Jackets were 3-2 in non-conference games decided by five points or fewer — and 0-11 in ACC play with the same measurement.

But don’t chalk that up to bad luck, a point the coach madfe in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat.

"Our guys competed throughout," Gregory said. "We just made a couple bad decisions there at the end with the ball in our hands. And unfortunately in this league, against this type of competition, that’s going to come back to get you and it did today."

By all accounts, Gregory is a good man and fills his program with high-character kids. But that only gets you so far in college basketball.

2. Olivier Hanlan showed why he’s a top-five player in the ACC

When it comes time for All-ACC voting, it’s not always popular to put players from losing records on your teams. As the logic goes … why couldn’t your team win more games?

Yes, Hanlan averaged 21.9 points in ACC play for a team that won just four leagues games But he did it on over 48 percent shooting (43.8 percdent from beyond the arc), adding 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and playing 38.8 minutes a game.

And yes, Hanlan took most of his team’s shots. But he made a lot of them, too; and out of necessity.

A lot of his (now-former) teammates transferred out after head coach Steve Donohue was fired; Hanlan stayed.

Against Georgia Tech, Hanlan scored 25 of the Eagles’ 66 points, pulled down a team-high eight rebounds (as a 6-foot-4 point guard) and had a team-high five assists.

In essence, he did everything in his power to advance Boston College to the next round.

"They just continue to compete, fight, stay together and obviously at the end of the game, put the ball in the hands of a special player and he makes a play," Boston College head coach Jim Christian said.

Georgia Tech made Hanlan work for everything he got. He finished with 25 points, and six of them came in the final 90 seconds to give his team the lead for good. He was 8-of-19 shooting, but made his final two attempts to get there.

Georgia Tech game-planned to stop him, and very nearly did. But great players get theirs. Both the ACC media and head coaches believed he was one of the five best in the league, and he showed why.

"Coach Christian has been doing a pretty good job of trying to get me easy looks on offense and just different looks, because Georgia Tech, this is obviously not the first time they’ve played me," Hanlan said. "They’re kind of getting used to me. I started the game a litlte slow, but I just try to bring it every day."

3. North Carolina might not be so enthused to face Boston College in Round 2

Of the so-called First Four teams playing in the ACC Tournament on Tuesday, Boston College was probably the one North Carolina would have least liked to have faced.

That’s probably true of a lot of teams, but particularly North Carolina, a team that could use a confidence boost. And the Tar Heels trounced the Yellow Jackets twice, by average margin of 35.5 points.

But Boston College has now won four games in a row, its longest winning streak since December. And it’s their longest winning streak in the month of March since the 2012-13 season, when they closed the year with wins over Virginia, at Clemson, Georgia Tech at home and then Georgia Tech again in the first round of the ACC tournament before falling in a close one to eventual champion Miami.

It’s been hard to tell what lies ahead in the Christian era. The Eagles have played better defensively, which is a start — they’ve gone from 298th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings to 144th this year — a significant improvement.

The Eagles (4-14 during ACC play) played hard almost always and were rarely blown out, taking losses by more than 15 just twice (by 17 to Notre Dame and 23 at Duke).

And now, Boston College has a newfound shot of confidence against a UNC squad that’s reeling a bit.

Boston College has won four in a row and two of those triumphs have come by double digits (a 12-point win over NC State, and an 18-point victory over Wake Forest).

"I think believing in us now when we go into every game," senior Patrick Heckmann said. "We know we can win and we’ve proven that. We’ve shown character. And I think now everything’s come together a little more and that’s what’s helping us."

STATS THAT MATTER

-19 OR, 28 second-chance points. Georgia Tech rebounded 47.5 percent of its missed shots — nearly half — and turned those 19 second chances into 28 points. That was over a third of the Jackets’ total points (65). And yet it wasn’t enough.

-1-of-7, 3 points. Boston College’s second-leading scorer, Aaron Brown, was held to three points on 1-of-7 shooting and went 0-of-4 from the foul line in 38 minutes.

STRAIGHT TALK

"We set a double ball screen from the wing and the whole game the guard that was guarding me was staying with me, but for some reason they switched it and I think I had Sampson on me. I immediately recognized it and just tried to attack him like I was going to the basket and I hit him with a stepback, just to create space, and had to shoot over." — Hanlan on his game-winning shot