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BC misses chance to knock off No. 4 Duke 02.10.13 at 8:13 pm ET
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Duke's Seth Curry takes a shot during Sunday's night game at Boston College. (AP)

Boston College has shown the ability to play with most every team in the ACC. What the Eagles can’t seem to do is come up with a basket in the closing seconds of a winnable game. That trend continued Sunday night at Conte Forum, as fourth-ranked Duke scored the game’s final six points and escaped with a 62-61 victory behind 19 points and 10 rebounds from Mason Plumlee.

Oliver Hanlan scored a game-high 20 points for the Eagles (10-13, 2-8 ACC), but his pull-up jumper just inside the free throw line with four seconds left was well off to the left. Teammate Ryan Anderson (17 points) grabbed the rebound and was undercut from behind by Duke’s Quinn Cook, falling to the ground and losing the ball, but no foul was called and time expired as the players scrambled for possession.

BC used a late 10-1 run — sparked by Anderson’s six points and one assist — to take a 61-56 lead with 2:15 left after two free throws from Hanlan. However, the Eagles would not score again. Duke (21-2, 8-2) started its comeback with a 3-pointer by Cook with just under two minutes left. With 46 seconds remaining, two free throws from Plumlee tied it at 61.

Following a missed 3-point try from BC’s Joe Rahon, Plumlee was fouled after grabbing the rebound. He hit 1-of-2 free throws with 25 seconds left for a 62-61 Duke lead.

Duke, which had to fly into Boston earlier Sunday due to snowstorm-forced airline cancellations Saturday, came out flat. The Blue Devils did not score for the first five minutes, but BC only managed four points in the that time. The teams were tied at 27 at the half.

Seth Curry finished with 18 points for Duke, the only team in the AP’s top five not to lose in the past week.

BC next host Wake Forest on Wednesday night.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Harvard lost for the time in Ivy League play this season, a 78-63 setback at Columbia in a game delayed one day by the snowstorm. Wesley Saunders scored 27 points for the Crimson (13-7, 5-1). Columbia’s Steve Frankoski also scored 27.

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The Three-Pointer: Reggie Jackson pulled from starting lineup in loss to Duke 01.27.11 at 11:20 pm ET
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Duke's Nolan Smith drives to the basket past BC's Joe Trapani during the Blue Devils 84-68 victory Thursday night. (AP)

Boston College coach Steve Donahue has made it clear since the start of the season that he takes his team’s practices very seriously, and he uses them to determine which players deserve to play — and start — in games.

Apparently, Donahue felt star guard Reggie Jackson was not bringing his best to the practice gym. Thus, in the team’s biggest game of the season, Jackson did not start either half as the Eagles fell to third-ranked Duke, 84-68, Thursday night in Durham, N.C.

“Practice matters,” was Donahue’s response to the media after the game when asked about Jackson’s demotion.

Perhaps this will light a fire under Jackson and the Eagles going forward. It sure didn’t seem to help much Thursday night, as they lost for the third time in four games to fall to 14-7 overall and 4-3 in ACC play.

The game featured the league’s top two scorers and assist men in Nolan Smith (20.1 ppg, 5.6 apg) and Jackson (19.1 and 4.9). Smith came through as advertised, with 28 points and eight assists to cement his spot atop the league in both categories. He hit 10-of-20 field goals and all seven of his free throws. If he continues this trend, he will be the first player in ACC history to lead the league in scoring and assists.

“Nolan is having a great year, and he had a great year last year, and he’s improved even more,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said earlier this week. “He’s got a lot on his plate for us, especially since [Kyrie Irving's] injury, and handling the ball, defending the ball, scoring the ball, leading the team. He’s done all of those things at the highest level. He’s having an All-American type of year.”

Jackson, meanwhile, was missing in action when the game began. And when he got in, he delivered his third straight subpar performance, finishing with a season-low seven points on 3-of-11 shooting (0-for-4 treys). Jackson began the night second in the league in field goal percentage (.526), first in 3-point percentage (.458) and 10th in free throw percentage (.796). But in the last three games he’s hit just 11-of-36 field goals (.305) and 3-of-15 treys (.200). And he’s missed three of his last five free throws.

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Mike Krzyzewski on Steve Donahue: ‘We’re lucky to have him in our league’ at 5:29 pm ET
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Steve Donahue is 0-1 all-time against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski heading into Thursday night's game in Durham, N.C. (AP)

BC coach Steve Donahue gives credit where credit is due: Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium — where the Eagles play Thursday night — is among the toughest place to play in America. However, the former Cornell coach noted this week that the Ivy League gyms have their own intimidation factor.

“There are very few at the higher levels that have places like [Duke's],” he said. “Allen Fieldhouse last year, when we played Kansas, I thought had the same type of vibe. But you’ll get a lot more tougher gyms to play at at the lower levels. Even in the Ivy League, a place like Yale sits around 2,500 and they are on top of you. And it’s loud. There’s no good acoustics. A lot of these arenas are so nice at this level that even if the crowd is loud, you’ve got some space, you’ve got good acoustics, you’ve got video boards to take your attention away from fans.

“Sometimes at the Ivy and Patriot League level you’ve arenas that people that know everything about you and they’re screaming everything and you hear every little word they say. And they can be just as intimidating if not more intimidating than some of these bigger arenas.”

BC’s Conte Forum is not known as an intimidating place to play — except, perhaps, when big-name teams such as Duke and North Carolina pay a visit. When athletic director Gene DeFilippo fired Al Skinner last year, he made it clear that he wanted the new coach to connect better with the school and community and bring some new excitement to the building.

BC still has a long way to go, as it is averaging a league-worst 4,562 fans per home game.

“I think going forward, that’s still an objective for our administration and basketball program,” Donahue said. “I think we’ve done a very good job with our kids out selling season tickets. We picked a day there, we had a real good kind of like midnight madness thing with ice hockey as well. And we’re constantly coming up with other ideas that the marketing people have done, and we’re looking forward to our home games going forward here.

“Unfortunately, we had two games in the league that we had no students in session, so that made it difficult. But we’re going to try to do everything we can to make Boston College a great homecourt advantage for us. In this league, everybody has a great place and it’s well-supported, and if you don’t do that I think you’re really missing the boat.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sounds like he believes Donahue will have success in Chestnut Hill.

“Well, he’s done a really good job with a veteran BC team,” Krzyzewski said on Monday’s ACC conference call. “They have really good talent. But a new coach coming in has to implement a new system and sometimes that’s harder to do with older guys than younger guys. They seem to have responded really well.

“And he obviously did a great job at Cornell. So I mean, he’s an outstanding coach and a good guy. We’re lucky to have him in our league.”

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