CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.—Being down by 10 points in the second half can be a scary situation for many teams.
Add in the fact that the Blue Devils start four freshmen playing in a hostile road environment in their first career conference game, and that situation can seem even more daunting.
No. 1 Duke had handled that pressure before and rallied to take the lead, but for the first time this season, it was unable to seal the deal.
The Blue Devils fought back from another double-digit second-half deficit to take a four-point advantage in the final three minutes, but Jerome Robinson knocked down back-to-back triples to regain the advantage and help Boston College stun the top-ranked team in the nation 89-84 at Conte Forum. Duke trailed by two points with less than 30 seconds remaining when Trevon Duval was whistled for a flagrant 1 foul, giving the Eagles two shots and the ball back to seal the Blue Devils' first defeat.
"We’ve been saying that all year, you can lose to anybody," senior captain Grayson Allen said. "If they didn’t believe it before, now they have to believe it. It doesn’t matter the name—don’t look at the name, and don’t look at what Boston College has done the last few years in the conference. They can come in here and kill us."
Gary Trent Jr.'s clutch play in the final minutes brought the Blue Devils back into the game, as he made a pair of free throws with 4:13 remaining to give the Duke the lead and nailed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to put the Blue Devils up 79-75. Trent led five Duke players in double figures with a career-high 25 points, but it was not enough to earn the victory.
"It sucks. Nobody wants to lose," freshman Marvin Bagley III said. "Everybody on this team is very competitive and losing is not what we want to do, and to go out there and experience that today, that should help us. We’re going to come back harder. Nobody in here likes that feeling of taking the 'L,' so when we come back next game we’re going to literally have to fight."
The Blue Devils (11-1, 0-1 in the ACC) charged out to an 18-12 lead, led by 10 early points from freshmen Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III, but the Blue Devils were unable to contain Jordan Chatman and Ky Bowman from the outside in the first half. The duo combined to convert on seven of their 12 attempts from downtown before the break, and Boston College shot 11-of-16 from deep in the first 20 minutes to take a 48-41 halftime lead.
Although the Blue Devils were able to use their height advantage to dominate in the interior—outscoring the Eagles 46-24 in the paint, the Eagles' guards had a field day despite entering the game ranked 265th in the nation with a 3-point conversion rate of less than 32 percent.
"They really executed extremely well the whole game," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Our kids got knocked back with all the shots they were making. And in the second half, we came back. Had a one-point lead and a four-point lead with three minutes. We have to score on that [next] possession."
Despite Duke's size and talent advantage in the paint with Boston College's leading rebounder Deontae Hawkins out for the season, the Eagles somehow outrebounded the Blue Devils 35-34. The 6-foot-1 Bowman led the way and nearly had a triple-double with 30 points, 10 boards and nine assists.
After Boston College (7-3, 1-0) stretched its lead to 10, Bagley pulled up from three with a little more than 15 minutes left to start the comeback. The Phoenix native extended his double-double streak to seven straight games and finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Duke took advantage of the early second-half fouls—getting in the bonus before the first media timeout—and converted 10-of-11 from the line in the second half to keep the game within reach.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Following a steal by sophomore Marques Bolden, Allen took the ball down the court and drained a triple to cut the Boston College lead to just four with 14:54 to play.
"We can still win the game," Bagley said of Duke's proven ability to fight back from second-half deficits. "That’s what we always think, and the game’s never over until it says zero on the clock.... We got the lead back, and down the stretch we made silly decisions, crazy turnovers and made mistakes. We’ll learn from it, though. We’ve got to get better."
Allen struggled mightily from the field, finishing the game 5-of-20, and the Blue Devils as a whole failed to convert from the perimeter efficiently, shooting just 8-of-30 from 3-point range.
Despite his team's defeat in the conference opener, Allen feels confident Duke will rebound and excel when conference play resumes Dec. 30, with the Blue Devils hosting undefeated Florida State.
"We’re good," Allen said. "I don’t have to tell them anything really from this loss. This is going to be a wake-up for them. They know what to expect in conference now."
Duke will next take the floor Dec. 20 against Evansville at Cameron Indoor Stadium after a break for final exams.