CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- It’s still too early in the season to call a game a must-win, but it’s safe to say both Boston College and Maryland viewed Thursday night’s game as an important one.
Both the Eagles and the Terps came into the night on two-game losing streaks. Both teams desperately wanted to start ACC play with a W and not an L.
Early it seemed only Mark Turgeon’s team came to play, as the Terps used a 16-5 run to sprint out to a 12-point lead early in the first half. But just when things could’ve gotten completely out of hand, a Maryland native brought BC back.
“I thought Garland had a lot to do with that,” BC coach Steve Donahue said of freshman Garland Owens, who’s from Gaithersburg, Md. “I just thought he brought great energy from the start, got us out of that tentativeness that we had to start the game.”
That energy was evident when the 6-foot-5, 202-pounder gave BC its first highlight-reel play of the night shortly after checking in.
Olivier Hanlan pulled down a rebound on a Maryland missed 3-pointer and pushed hard upcourt. Owens ran with him, and Hanlan saw his teammate streaking down the right side and lobbed up an alley-oop that Owens easily slammed home with two hands.
Then Owens, not known as a marksman, hit a pair of 3s later in the half, chipping away at the Terrapins’ lead as BC struggled back into the game to be down just six at the half. And with Maryland up seven nearing the halfway point of the second half, Owens struck again.
Joe Rahon skipped a pass across court to an open Owens in front of the BC bench, and the freshman drilled another 3. Maryland turned the ball over on the next possession, and when Hanlan couldn’t find an entry angle he liked to get the ball to Ryan Anderson in the post he gave it instead to Owens at the top of the key and the freshman swished another from long range to get BC within one.
A couple of Hanlan free throws later, the Eagles had their first lead of the game at 57-56 with 10:20 to go.
After coming into the game averaging 2.9 points a game, with only three made 3s (on eight attempts) all season, Owens had 16 points on 4-for-5 shooting from 3 and it looked like he might be the difference in a key comeback win for BC.
But the good times were not to last. BC led by as many as four with fewer than seven minutes to go, but Maryland junior Dez Wells took over on offense from there and helped the Terps battle back, retake the lead and close out an 88-80 win.
“Dez Wells kinda put us on his back,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “You could sense it, he was just bigger and stronger than them and he played downhill all night. For him to have a night like this, I’m really happy for him, because he takes losing harder than anyone.”
The defense, or lack thereof, was a major problem for BC. The Eagles allowed Maryland to shoot 55.2 percent for the game, led by Wells’ 12-for-18 performance for a game-high 33 points. Wells scored 22 of those points in the second half.
“They were playing pretty simple, Dez Wells was gonna drive it,” Donahue said. “Dez Wells gets no assists. He’s not someone who finds guys.
“What I tried to stress to the guys was, Dez Wells isn’t a passer. He’s a heck of a driver.”
But even though they knew what was coming, the Eagles couldn’t stop the 6-5, 215-pounder on Thursday.
“It just comes down to the team effort, getting to the ball,” Hanlan said. “He was starting the ball from his hoop and just going straight down there. It’s obviously hard, he’s obviously a great player but we could’ve done a better job on that side.”
If the Eagles are going to right their disappointing season, they need to start doing a better job consistently and quickly. Thursday night’s loss dropped Donahue & Co. to 3-7 on the young season.
“We’re really close in a lot of ways,” Donahue said. “As I’ve said, I have great faith in this group, and we’re gonna chip away at it and we’re gonna be a good team.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.