Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan drives to the basket past Duke’s Mason Plumlee during Sunday’s game.
BOSTON — Boston College coach Steve Donahue had trouble explaining another tough home loss to his team.
The Eagles blew a five-point lead with 2:15 left and lost 62-61 to No. 4 Duke on Sunday night. Mason Plumlee had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils, including the winning free throw with 26 seconds left.
“When you play like that and you do those things, and their coachability and their ability to compete over long stretches compared to six weeks ago and over last year — it doesn’t make them feel any better,” Donahue said. “I just wanted to win for these guys to get rewarded for what they’ve done. I just said to those guys, `We didn’t lose the game. They won the game. They made plays down the stretch.’ I know it doesn’t make them feel any better.”
The improved Eagles took then-No. 23 North Carolina State to the wire back on Jan. 5 before falling in the closing seconds. Eleven days later, BC led now-No. 8 Miami late before falling when Olivier Hanlan missed a late free throw that would have sent the game to overtime.
On Sunday, they let a late lead slip away, going scoreless over the final 2:14.
And, in the end, it was another tough BC loss. Five of its Atlantic Coast Conference losses have come by five points or less.
Seth Curry added 18 points for the Blue Devils, who watched the three teams above them in The Associated Press Top 25 lose to unranked opponents this week — and then nearly joined them.
Hanlan scored 20 points for Boston College (10-13, 2-8). The Eagles had a chance to win it after Plumlee made one of two free throws but Hanlan’s jumper was wide and the rebound popped out of bounds as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
Duke (21-2, 8-2) won its fifth straight game.
The Eagles began the day tied for last in the conference, but they jumped to an eight-point lead midway through the first half and were locked in a 27-all tie at halftime. Duke opened a six-point lead in the second half but then went cold again, scoring just one free throw over a 4˝-minute span and allowing BC to make it 61-56 with 2:15 to play.
But Quinn Cook made his third 3-pointer of the game, then Plumlee hit a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left to tie it at 61. BC’s Joe Rahon put a 3-point attempt off the top of the backboard and Plumlee was brought down hard as he grabbed the rebound.
The Blue Devils forward missed the first foul shot but made the second to make it a one-point lead. After a timeout, Hanlan dribbled down the clock, before faking the drive and pulling up for an open shot inside the foul line that was wide.
Ryan Anderson grabbed the rebound but lost control as he fell to the floor and the ball popped out of bounds as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
Plumlee celebrated from his back as the Blue Devils improved their chance to move up from the No. 4 ranking after losses for the top three teams: Indiana, Florida and Michigan — all to unranked teams. The Blue Devils have been ranked No. 1 five weeks during the regular season, the last on Jan. 21.
Fans dug themselves out after the weekend’s blizzard to watch the Eagles play their best game of a season that includes losses to Harvard and Bryant. BC had lost six of seven, including a 22-point loss to Miami on Tuesday.
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