BC not giving up despite another near miss

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Lonnie Jackson took a knee at midcourt, right on the eagle in the Boston College logo. He raised his hand to his eyes as a whistle blew.

The grimace on his face was for a stray shot he took to the head during the Eagles’ penultimate possession, but it might as well have been for the team’s season as a whole.

BC fought Florida State tooth and nail Tuesday night, parrying each blow the visitors threw and counterpunching effectively for most of the night.

“I thought we competed, played very well,” BC coach Steve Donahue said. “Like a lot of games this year, we played well enough to win and there’s one or two that you’ve got to make a play -- a rebound, something like that -- and it just didn’t go our way. But as I said to these guys, I was extremely proud of their effort.

“I thought we competed, made poised plays when we had to. They just made more of them.”

The final possessions of the 74-70 loss to the Seminoles were a microcosm of the Eagles’ season.

Down two with 23.4 seconds to play, BC needed to go the length of the floor out of a timeout. Jackson ran the baseline, looking for someone to inbound to. Finally Olivier Hanlan snuck free in the corner in front of the FSU bench, and Jackson threw the ball to him.

But Hanlan took his eyes off it before he had it secured and the ball dribbled off his hands out of bounds.

“I was begging for that,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton joked. “Begging and pleading, saying, ‘Please turn that ball over.’”

At times Hanlan was the best player on the court -- he had 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting in the first half, including 3-for-5 on 3s -- but this time the FSU press, and his hurry to look upcourt and assess the situation, got the better of him and he answered the Noles coach’s pleas.

The Eagles got another chance, down three with 12.8 to play. The ball swung around the perimeter to Joe Rahon, who found himself open with an opportunity to tie.

“I had a great look,” he said. “Really couldn’t have asked for a better play. ... I had a good look, I just missed it.”

Jackson grabbed the long carom and moved the ball to Hanlan, who let fly as the clock ticked into single digits. Clang.

“You couldn’t have asked for two better looks to tie the game there, you’ve just got to put one of them in,” Rahon said.

After battling all evening -- as they have for much of the season -- the Eagles just couldn’t get it done at the end.

“We definitely played hard,” BC forward Patrick Heckmann said. “We played tough, we had a lot of poise. There were just little things that we have to do better, throughout the game, I think. ... We fought hard, but it didn’t end well for us.”

The loss in the home finale dropped the Eagles to 8-22 overall and 4-13 in ACC play. Donahue & Co. have one game left in the regular season, at NC State, and then will travel to Greensboro, N.C., for the ACC tournament.

“I’ve got to take my hat off to this team,” Hamilton said. “They’ve played so many close games this year. I hope that people understand that they’ve got everybody back next year, and I hope we only play them once and I hope it’s at our place.”

Take that for what you will, which could well just be a victorious coach throwing a kind word the way of his defeated (and embattled) coaching colleague. But there’s truth to Hamilton’s words.

Danny Rubin, a former walk-on, is BC’s only senior in 2013-14. There’s talent on the roster in Hanlan, Rahon and Ryan Anderson (after 24 in a win at Wake Forest on Saturday, he was held to just 7 points on Tuesday), and there have been moments of promise (knocking off previously unbeaten and top-ranked Syracuse) amid the disappointment this season.

Donahue, his voice as hoarse as ever after a game, remains hopeful.

“The guys are playing spirited, inspired basketball right now,” he said. “I thought practices have been great. We’re turning a corner in a lot of ways, in terms of physicality, playing hard, more guys just doing their roles. So I’m excited about where we are, and I know there have been a lot of challenges this year ...”

If you think the sting of disappointment would be blunted by this point, almost two dozen losses in, you’d be wrong.

“It’s definitely still very disappointing,” Heckmann said. “We’re working really hard in practice. We still want to win every game. We want to go to the [ACC] tournament and win as many games as we can. We’re going to keep working hard, and every loss is still disappointing.

“Although we’re having not that great of a season, we’re not done yet, we want to keep playing.”

And that resolve -- always rising, even when knocked, wincing, to a knee -- is admirable, even if the results haven’t been.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.