“By then,” teammate Ryan Anderson said, “I knew anything this dude throws up is going in today.”
Hanlan set an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament record for freshmen with 41 points, and the Eagles routed Georgia Tech 84-64 on Thursday in the first round.
The ACC’s rookie of the year had the highest-scoring game in the tournament by any player regardless of class since 1970 and broke the old freshman mark of 40 set two years ago by North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes.
“My teammates were finding me in spots,” Hanlan said. “I was just trying to get to the wing because they were guarding me pretty well whenever I attacked. So I was just trying to spot up and get my feet under me and hit shots.”
He was 14-of-18, made his final 12 shots and was a one-man show in bringing the eighth-seeded Eagles (16-16) back from an early 15-0 deficit and into today’s quarterfinal against No. 9 Miami, the tournament’s top seed.
Freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the ninth-seeded Yellow Jackets (16-15), who have lost five of seven and now are likely left to hope for an invitation to the NIT.
“Both teams rely on freshmen, not just to help the team, but sometimes carry it,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “(On Thursday), their freshman ... played extremely well.”
Hanlan’s eight 3-pointers — one shy of a tournament record — matched the second most by any player in the history of the event.
“When he’s throwing it up from 30 feet out and it’s going in, you know he’s having a special night,” Anderson said. “It’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in person.”
Hanlan scored 25 points during the 37-10 run that flipped BC’s 14-point deficit into a 13-point lead — 51-38 with 14:41 remaining — and put the Eagles well on their way to their fourth straight victory but just their second win at the ACC tournament since 2009.
The only drama down the stretch was whether he’d catch Barnes — or even Lennie Rosenbluth’s record of 45 points for any player regardless of class, a mark that has stood since 1957.
Hanlan passed Barnes with about 2:45 left when he took a kick-out pass from Anderson on the left wing and launched an open 3-pointer that circled the rim and clipped the backboard before dropping through.
“It was a lucky shot,” Hanlan said.
He exited for good with 2:13 remaining, bringing an end to the eighth 40-point performance in tournament history and the highest-scoring game since North Carolina’s Charles Scott had 41 in the 1970 quarterfinals.
“It’s not something we care about, with all due respect to the scoring record,” BC coach Steve Donahue said. “It’s all about our team. I would never want to think something like that an individual does, like a record, is more important than what we do.”
Joe Rahon had 15 points and Anderson added 11 points — including a behind-the-back drive down the lane and past Robert Carter Jr. for a dunk that would have been the signature highlight in any other game.
Patrick Heckmann finished with 10 points and Eddie Odio had 10 rebounds for BC. Mfon Udofia had 10 points for Georgia Tech.
The opening game of the tournament matched two of the youngest teams in the league.
Eleven of the 14 players on BC’s roster are freshmen or sophomores while the Yellow Jackets start three freshmen around Udofia, the lone senior on their team — and the rookies certainly stole the show in this one.
These young Eagles — the preseason pick to finish last in the league — finally figured out how to win down the stretch. They came to Greensboro on a three-game winning streak and claimed their second win over Georgia Tech in a six-day span.
It looked like Georges-Hunt — the only ACC freshman to lead his team in scoring — would be the best rookie on the court early, hitting two early 3s to help the Yellow Jackets race out to a short-lived 15-0 lead.
Then, Hanlan took over — and the Eagles dominated the rest of the way.
“We just didn’t play well in the last 24, 25 minutes of the game, which is unfortunate but something that we’ve got to keep rolling from, learning from,” Gregory said. “That has been a challenge for us, to be able to compete at the level in this league for a 40-minute stretch. ... We did a lot of good things this year, but the next step from going to being competitive and good to the next step is a hard one. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”