NEWTON, Mass. -- The calm before the storm, this was not.
In its final nonconference game of the season, Boston College faced a Rhode Island team that came in with a 2-12 record. The matchup seemed like the basketball equivalent to the serene moments before the clouds open up, raindrops begin to pelt the ground and lightning tears the sky.
On Saturday, the thunderous Atlantic Coast Conference schedule opens with the Eagles in North Carolina to play the No. 4 Tar Heels.
The game didn’t exactly follow that script. The young Eagles gave up the ball too often (finishing with as many turnovers as assists -- 16 -- and giving up 17 points off turnovers) and struggled to limit the Rams to one shot (22 offensive rebounds and 22 second-chance points for URI) in a 78-72 double-overtime loss.
“It was very difficult,” BC freshman forward Ryan Anderson said of trying to hold off URI on the boards. “They did a great job finishing off their possessions with a rebound, and we didn’t finish our possessions off with a rebound.”
URI led by as many as nine midway through the second half before a furious BC rally -- fueled by a deep Jordan Daniels 3 at the shot-clock buzzer and a Lonnie Jackson 3 -- pushed the hosts ahead 57-55. It was the first lead for BC since it led 7-2 less than four minutes in. And it didn’t last.
After a Patrick Heckmann layup with 1:13 left -- his first basket of the game -- gave BC a 59-58 lead, the Rams' Mike Powell made one of two free throws to tie the game. URI got the rebound on the second free throw, and after a timeout Billy Baron (game-high 24 points off the bench) missed a 3 at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
URI took a quick lead in the extra period, but Heckmann was there again late. With 12.3 seconds to go and BC down two, Jackson found Heckmann on the left wing. The Mainz, Germany, native let one defender fly by, dribbled toward the right block, then shot-faked another defender to clear himself for a bank shot at the buzzer to force the second overtime.
“In a lot of ways I saw a lot of good things that a young team can learn from. I thought we had great poise at the end of each overtime,” BC coach Steve Donahue said. “Then there’s other times with young teams that you scratch your head.”
The biggest head-scratcher came when BC had a one-point lead late in regulation and Daniels, pressured by his defender, dribbled toward the backcourt looking for an outlet. He saw Jackson open in the middle of the court, on the BC logo, and hit him with a pass. Problem was, Jackson was over the half-court line.
“That’s just unexplainable,” Donahue said of the miscue. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it like that during a possession, when a guy steps into the backcourt and you throw it to him.”
For now, that’s the kind of mistake the young Eagles will make. And until they stop making them, they’ll continue to struggle even against teams it seems they should beat, of which there won’t be many on the ACC schedule.
In the second overtime, the Rams finally pulled away. Boston native Orion Outerbridge upfaked Dennis Clifford on the block, drove for the dunk and converted an and-1 after Jackson was called for a reach-in foul. Heckmann and Jackson missed 3s on BC’s next possession, then Powell drove the lane and kicked to an open Baron for 3 and a six-point lead.
Anderson finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, after posting 11 and 8 in the first half. Heckmann finished with 11 points, none coming before his bucket with 1:13 left in regulation.
Boston College finished the nonconference portion of its schedule 5-9, and the Eagles know it won’t get any easier from here on in.
They also know they let one get away on Monday.
“We always talk about every day at practice finishing off every play and finishing off every practice that we’re in. It’s the same way in a game,” Anderson said. “We took the lead and we felt like we wanted to use the momentum to our favor and finish out the game. We just weren’t able to make enough plays down the stretch.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.