CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Reggie Jackson might still come off the bench for the Boston College basketball team, but the ball invariably has been in his hands when the Eagles need a play made in the final seconds of a close game.
Sometimes Jackson makes the play. Sometimes he doesn't.
Sometimes Jackson will give the Eagles a chance to win they wouldn't otherwise have had. Sometimes he'll squander a chance for a win that was there for the taking.
He did both against Duke on Saturday. He swished a rainbow of a 3-pointer to slice the Blue Devils' lead to 64-63 with 15.1 seconds left. He then took too long to get a play started after Jon Scheyer had hit two free throws, taking three or four extra dribbles at midcourt, then failing to give Joe Trapani enough time to get a good look at what could have been a tying 3-pointer.
Jackson did the same thing against Florida State a week ago: He hit a clutch 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds left, but then failed to get a shot off or get the ball to Rakim Sanders for him to shoot before the final seconds ticked away.
It's all part of having a sophomore as the most dynamic player on a junior-laden team. Jackson's inconsistency this season has mirrored the inconsistency of the team as a whole; as a result, a trip to the NIT in March pretty much the best BC can hope for (barring a miracle in the ACC tournament). Avoiding the same fate next season will depend heavily on the development and maturity of Jackson as the Eagles' crunch-time ball-handler.
"The ball's in his hands," BC forward Corey Raji said after the loss to Duke. "Only he can determine who gets the ball. If he feels he's open, he's going to take the shot. He's done it before. He's taken big shots. We're not upset that he took the shot. He took the shot, and he made it.
"But when teams double-team him, that's when him being a point guard, he has to look for the next guy to be open. We're very confident in him. He hit the shot. Nobody was upset about it."
"[Duke] chased him with two guys," BC coach Al Skinner said. "Unfortunately, he just held it a little too long. When they did that, he should have known Joe was going to be open, and he held it a little too long to get the ball to Joe in time for him to shoot a shot that was going to be comfortable."
A malfunctioning shot clock on Saturday at Conte Forum didn't help matters. Because the clock above one basket didn't work, officials decided to shut off the clocks at both ends of the floor. Temporary shot clocks were placed in the corner at each end of the floor.
"With the clock on the floor, he couldn't see how much time was left," Skinner said. "I'm not blaming him for holding the ball. As he indicated as he was coming off the floor, he said, 'Coach, I just couldn't see how much time was on the clock.' He never really felt comfortable."
The 6-foot-3 combo guard has asserted himself as the Eagles' most dynamic offensive option, whether he's attacking the basket or shooting from behind the arc. He's scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games, and he'd scored at least 15 points in three straight games before stumbling against Florida State and Duke.
Jackson is shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point range, but he has hit two clutch 3-pointers in as many games.
"He likes to take the big shot," Raji said. "He wants to be the hero. If I had the ball in my hands, if anyone had the ball in their hands, they'd want to take the last shot. We're confident enough in him to make the shot."
Opposing teams now know Jackson will have the ball in his hands and take the last shot. Duke knew it. Guard Nolan Smith and forward Ryan Kelly of the Blue Devils both swarmed to Jackson on the perimeter, leaving him little chance to do anything productive with the ball.
"No one was going to allow him just to go one-on-one," Skinner said.
No one should allow Jackson just to go one-on-one. He's too good to be allowed to go one-on-one against any defense. He just has to learn to make the right play even when the opposing defense isn't inclined to let him do it.
Brian MacPherson is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.