|12.24.09 at 8:57 am ET|
It was a defensive struggle early on for both teams, as Boston College headed into halftime holding only a 26-25 lead over visiting UMass. But in the end, the Eagles’ offensive athleticism proved too much for the Minutemen, and BC grabbed a 79-67 win Wednesday night.
In the beginning, the Eagles could hardly get out of their own way, with clunked 3-pointers and sloppy turnovers leading to a very low-scoring output in the first half. But a stingy defense held UMass to a similar result, making the recipe for victory all the simpler in the second half — score and win.
Boston College did just that, thanks in large part to junior Corey Raji, who scored all of his team-leading 18 points in the second half after shooting 0-for-5 from the field in the first. Much like teammate and fellow junior Rakim Sanders did in the first half, Raji was able to slice inside and take advantage of the smaller sized and overmatched UMass guards time and time again.
With the Eagles’ lead creeping into double digits midway through the second, UMass made one final rush at the Eagles, getting to within six at 63-57 with just over three minutes remaining. But Rakim Sanders nailed a 3-pointer that silenced the Minutemen and any hope of a late rally, carrying BC to the win.
Here’s what we learned from the BC victory:
SANDERS IS ALMOST THERE
When BC team leader Tyrese Rice graduated after last season, many turned their heads to Sanders to pick up the scoring slack in Rice’s absence. However, after being injured for the majority of the beginning of the season, Sanders has been unable to really assert himself on the court.
But it appears Sanders may finally be getting his sea legs back.
“It feels good,” Sanders said. “Just trying to get back into the best shape — I do [feel more comfortable].”
Early in the game, when Boston College struggled to get any semblance of an offense going, it was Sanders who took control. The 6-foot-5, 228-pound forward was able to use his size to his advantage, bullying UMass down low early and often. At the end of the first half, Sanders led the Eagles with nine points, two rebounds and three assists, showing signs of life that the Eagles’ most talented offensive player may finally be getting back to full strength.
This is crucial for the Eagles down the stretch, as it’s no secret what a matchup problem Sanders presents to opposing defenses. He’s a big guard who can move well and has the ability to shoot effectively both inside and outside. He hasn’t been able to put it together yet this season because of the injury, but entering the weeklong holiday break, the Eagles might finally be on the verge of seeing what Sanders is capable of.
‘TIS THE SEASON FOR GIVING
Even with the Eagles struggling to convert on open shots early in the game, coach Al Skinner remained calm about the offense. Skinner attributed that calmness to a faith in the system, knowing that though the Eagles were clanging shots left and right, they were coming off open looks — and they’d fall in eventually.
Fortunately for the Eagles, that rang true, and all of those good looks were made possible by great off-the-dribble recognition, specifically by guards Reggie Jackson and Sanders, who had a combined 13 assists between them. On the night, BC finished with 22 total assists on 30 baskets, a ratio that Skinner was very pleased with after the final buzzer sounded.
“We’re not a one-on-one team,” Skinner said. “I like to see the ball moving, I like to see guys share the basketball. I think you get better looks, and with the number of assists to baskets and the least number of turnovers just shows where we our with recognition on our part.”
Ball movement played a vital role in the victory, as the Minutemen came out of the half pressing – both literally and figuratively. Trailing BC at the half, UMass decided to go with a full-court press to steal back the lead, and just like they did against Providence, the Eagles were able to exploit it — finding Corey Raji multiple times under the basket for easy lay-ins.
AT TIMES, RAJI IS UNSTOPPABLE
With points somewhat at a premium throughout the first half, BC called on Raji to lend a hand in the second. After going 0-for-5 in the first 20 minutes of play, Raji exploded in the second half, slicing to the basket and torching UMass for 18 points.
It was the play of No. 11 that led the Eagles, who once again saw their shooting from 3-point range be at a less-than-stellar percentage, sitting at 35 percent after the final whistle.
Raji’s second-half dominance comes as no surprise to the Eagles, who have seen him lead the team in scoring since the first game, posting 15.4 points a game heading into Wednesday night. It was especially crucial Wednesday night not only due to the Eagles’ low scoring output in the first half, but also because of the size matchup down low. Raji was presented with a tremendous matchup against smaller UMass players and took full advantage in the second half, much like fellow junior Sanders did in the first.
“I was just telling him, ‘Keep focused, keep going,’ ” Sanders said of Raji. “He’s always hungry. He’s always trying to find a way to score, whether it’s offensive rebounds or anything.”
Raji also was able to take advantage of the UMass press, consistently finding openings under the basket and converting on numerous fast-break lay-ins.
|12.21.09 at 12:47 am ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — One of the best ways to break a slump is to beat up on an opponent that cannot get out of its own way. That was the case Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum as Boston College took advantage of winless Bryant en route to a 72-46 victory.
The end result was not predicated so much on BC dominance but rather that Bryant looked like a hapless basketball squad whose turnover count battled its total points count for a good portion of the game. The game for Bryant started with two ugly turnovers by sophomore forward Papa Lo and degenerated from there, as the Bulldogs had trouble making crisp passes, knocking down shots or generally achieving any cohesion on the floor. The Eagles did not need to be spectacular to take advantage, though they were efficient enough to secure the easy victory.
“Basically you have two teams that were struggling,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “Our situation was a little different than theirs, but still, it was two teams that were struggling. We just happened to have a little more talent than them and that was the difference in the ball game.”
Skinner has said in the past that when the Eagles keep opponents under 40 percent field goal shooting, his team will usually win. He was disappointed by the defensive effort after the losses to Harvard and Rhode Island but thought he saw an improved performance against Bryant, especially in the first half, when BC held the Bulldogs to 16 points on 15 turnovers. For the game, Bryant shot 16-for-48 for 33.3 percent.
“I think defensively, I liked the effort that we had, I thought we were active and I thought we rebounded the ball well,” Skinner said. “We are still not where we would like it to be but the defensive end, the area we really wanted to concentrate on, that was extremely important for us.”
The improved defense paid off for the Eagles in the key categories of turnovers and field goal percentage, and the offense had enough of a talent edge over the Bulldogs to lead to an easy victory.
“I think guys were more aware of their surroundings than they have been,” Skinner said. “I think our team defense was better and I was pleased with that effort and I am pleased with that. It has to improve but I think we are getting back to where we were a few games ago.”
Here are three other things we learned from the blowout . . . .
THE EAGLES TURNED TO A SMALL – AND TALENTED – STARTING FIVE
In terms of talent, the five best players that BC has are junior forwards Corey Raji and Joe Trapani, junior guards Biko Paris and Rakim Sanders and sophomore guard Reggie Jackson. Skinner employed that lineup for much of the game against Rhode Island last Sunday and when it came time to name the starting five against Bryant, those were the players who comprised the group. Left out of that lineup was usual starting center junior Josh Southern, who had started 44 straight games (34 last year, 10 this year). Southern played 14 minutes with two points and six rebounds.
Besides for having the most talent on the squad, the change of lineup was focused on the fact that Bryant did not have a lot of team size and neither do BC’s upcoming opponents, notably UMass on Wednesday.
“The teams that we are going to be playing are smaller teams and I think it is clear that we have struggled a little bit in some games against the smaller lineups,” Skinner said. “I think this, in terms of a defensive standpoint was going to be effective for us and we thought today that it worked for us and we are going to stay with it for a while.”
The logic proved to be sound as the forwards, Raji and Trapani, led the team in scoring and rebounds while also being the most active players around the ball all afternoon. Trapani recorded a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Raji added 20 points and eight rebounds to lead the charge.
“We will still go with a more traditional lineup through the course of the game but I wanted to have this flexibility to be able to do this,” Skinner said.
Trapani took the opening tip and, for the most part, was matched up on the opposing center/power forward.
“As a coach I thought I was getting a little rigid in what I was going to do,” Skinner said. “There was no flexibility because I was staying pretty rigid. Now this allows me to bring a little bit of more flexibility that I don’t think we have utilized enough.”
When senior captain Tyler Roche comes back from his injured back, he will probably come off the bench as the sixth man in this rotation, further adding to the flexibility that Skinner is looking to attain.
“He brought me into the office and sat me down and started to go over plays with me and asked if I would feel comfortable [playing] the four, and I said I would do whatever the team needs me to do to win games,” Raji said. “Fortunately it worked tonight and we were happy with the outcome of the game.”
TRAPANI THOUGHT BIG WHILE PLAYING A DIFFERENT POSITION
Skinner had been upset with the effort level that BC showed in recent games, and it seemed that Trapani took the coach’s criticism to heart on Sunday afternoon. The junior played 29 minutes and stayed in for just about the entire game before he was pulled for good with the contest well in hand at the 7:44 mark in the second half. Trapani added three steals and four blocks to round out the performance.
Though playing at the five spot in the rotation, Trapani stayed within his normal style of play — getting after loose balls in the paint, moving to the perimeter on offense and being an overall nuisance to the opposition.
“I was aware from the other coaches that I would be playing the five for this game,” Trapani said. “They were a smaller team and I thought I was able to defend the five spot . . . it was more of a mental thing for me. Getting fired up and being in the right position to defend these guys and not letting them get comfortable.”
THE EAGLES ARE STILL LOOKING FOR THEIR RANGE
The last three games have not been kind to the Eagles’ perimeter offense. They were a decent 5-for-13 from the 3-point line against Harvard, 3-for-17 against Rhode Island and 4-for-18 against Bryant. BC missed its first five shots from the arc before Trapani broke through with 6:47 left in the first half. Trapani was 2-for-5 from the perimeter while Jackson and Sanders were both 1-for-5.
“I think most of our guys might be rushing their shots,” Trapani said. “They are open and they immediately shoot instead of just calming down. In practice we shoot a much higher percentage and I think our defensive intensity is much higher in practice so, I think in a game situation we just need to calm down and shoot the ball like we usually do.”
Skinner acknowledged that if the smaller lineup shoots better from outside, BC will be a tough team to beat.
“I think [the smaller lineup] presents some problems for the opposing teams in terms of how do you defend that?” Skinner said. “Once our perimeter play, in terms of our perimeter shooting, starts to improve then we will be very, very difficult to deal with.”
|12.14.09 at 12:04 am ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — It is easy to see why the University of Rhode Island Rams are 8-1 on the year and continue to chug along in non-conference play before the start of the Atlantic 10 season. The Rams have a quick, athletic bunch that was too much for Boston College on Sunday night as they defeated the Eagles 80-69 at Conte Forum.
Rhode Island was hot from the field, hitting 50 percent on 31-of-62 shooting. Included in that was a blazing 9-for-15 from the 3-point line that was largely decisive in the contest, particularly given that BC was 3-of-17 from behind the arc. The Rams’ athletic guard/forward trio of James Delroy, Lamonte Ulmer and Keith Cothran could not be contained by an Eagles team that is still struggling to find an identity and mesh on the defensive end of the floor.
“Our defense is not where it needs to be,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “I just told the players that we have to be more coordinated on the defensive end if we are going to get back to winning basketball games. The numbers are pretty simple for us. When a team shoots 50 percent, they win. When we hold them under 40 percent, we win. It has been that way all season long.”
The game started off with a slow pace, as BC led 16-15 after the first 10 minutes. That would not last, especially against a Rhode Island team that likes to put on pressure and get up and down the floor. It also helps when every shot from downtown finds the bottom of the net. The last 10 minutes of the first half saw the Rams go on a run spurred along by an impressive 6-for-8 shooting streak from the 3-point line, at one point hitting five in a row. That type of torrid pace is hard to sustain, but the damage was done and URI was off to the races.
The second half was more of the same except at a quicker pace. Rhode Island ramped up the pressure as Ulmer and company caused fits for the BC backcourt, a game-long trend that led to 14 Eagles turnovers. BC battled back near the midway point of the second, closing the gap to four points at the 10:03 mark after a Joe Trapani layup. But the Rams used their formula — pressure, hot shooting and athleticism — to balloon the lead back to 10 points two minutes later.
From there, the Rams never let the Eagles back into the contest. The final score was indicative of the how the night played out.
“We’re fighting ourselves right now, it doesn’t matter who we are playing,” Skinner said.
Here are a few key points from the game . . . .
RAKIM SANDERS IS BACK, BUT . . .
Until tonight, the most athletic player for BC had seen four minutes on the court all season. Eagles partisans no doubt were hoping that the return of junior guard Rakim Sanders would spur the Eagles offense and backcourt play and help the team bounce back from the Harvard loss on Wednesday. Sanders played 34 minutes and led the team with 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting with a turnover, an assist and two rebounds.
“It felt good to be out there and playing with the team,” Sanders said. “I think it is more of us and what we have to do . . . we are playing not to lose, not to win.”
With Sanders back in the starting lineup, sophomore guard Reggie Jackson, who has been a spark plug for the Eagles this year, took a seat on the bench as Skinner went with his nominal starting five for one of the first times all year. That consisted of Sanders and Biko Paris at guard, Corey Raji and Trapani at forward and Josh Southern at center. Jackson did come off the bench to play 24 minutes and score 11 points, which created an interesting lineup for Skinner.
Which leads us to . . .
SANDERS AND JACKSON MAKE THE EAGLES MORE DYNAMIC
Late in the second half, as the Eagles were trying to catch up, Skinner went with a lineup of Jackson, Paris, Raji, Trapani and Sanders. It was a small lineup, with Trapani the biggest man on the floor at 6-foot-8, 228 pounds. Yet, it is probably the best scoring mix for Skinner, since those are his top five skill players.
The swing factor for the Eagles was two-fold — the lack of perimeter defense by this group which led to the Rams’ 60 percent 3-point shooting combined with that horrendous 3-for-17 performance beyond the arc. Other than that the five player rotation was 25-59 (or 42.3-percent) from the floor, not far off the Rams’ pace.
The BC rotation became pretty thin after senior captain Tyler Roche re-injured his back in the first half and did not come back into the game. Roche played six minutes and hit his first two shots before heading to the sideline. That, in turn, forced Jackson and Evan Ravenel into more service than they were probably expecting.
“[Roche] hurt his back again, which is unfortunate,” Skinner said. “We have been fighting this thing and trying to get our full team on the floor so we can go out and perform in a way that we are capable of, but we haven’t been able to do that.”
THE EAGLES NEED TO IMPROVE THEIR GUARD PLAY
In the post-game press conference, Skinner chalked up the primary problems with the squad to two deficiencies — defense and guard play. URI was able to take advantage of both of these aspects of the Eagles game to swing the momentum in its favor.
“We are just not seeing the plays, everybody is just locked in. We are just not coordinated on the defensive end,” Skinner said. “Our guard play the last couple of games has just not been good. We can’t win basketball games if our guard play does not improve and I told the guys that our guard play does not improve . . . It doesn’t make a difference if there is pressure or no pressure, our guard play has to improve.”
“They were struggling with the press, we went out and got some deflections and caused some steals that got us in our offense early in the beginning,” Cothran said. “They couldn’t guard us off the bounce. We have some quick guards, so we were going to the basket on them.”
The Eagles defensive problems stem from their backcourt. Paris could not find his rhythm against the quick URI guards, which caused significant problems. He was also having trouble with the Rams’ pressure which led to five turnovers (versus seven assists). The Rams scored 15 points off turnovers in the game, including nine fast-break points.
As Cothran pointed, the Rams were able to break down the BC backcourt pretty easily. The Eagles did not disagree.
“I take full responsibility for the way we have played the last two games,” Paris said.
BC will have to find a way to improve the team defense and guard play if it does not want to turn this two-game skid into a protracted slump.
|12.07.09 at 4:28 pm ET|
Boston College junior forward Corey Raji was named ACC Player of the Week after averaging 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in two games. Raji shot 63 percent (17-of-27) from the field in the Eagles’ wins over Michigan Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and over Miami Sunday in the ACC opener for both teams. Raji helped the Eagles improve to 6-2 heading into Wednesday night’s game against Harvard at Conte Forum.
Here is the press release from the ACC:
ACC Basketball Players of the Week
Monday, December 7, 2009
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Boston College’s Corey Raji has been named ACC Player of the Week, while Wake Forest’s C.J. Harris and Georgia Tech’s Mfon Udofia tied for ACC Rookie of the Week honors.
Raji averaged 20.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and shot 63 percent (17-of-27) from the field as the Eagles posted a 62-58 win over Michigan last Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and a 61-60 ACC victory over visiting Miami Sunday.
The Washington Township, N.J., junior was 11-for-16 from the field and totaled 24 points, nine rebounds and three steals against the Wolverines. In the Eagles’ ACC opener against the previously unbeaten Hurricanes, the 6-6, 218-pound forward had 17 points and nine rebounds.
|12.06.09 at 10:08 pm ET|
Boston College guard Reggie Jackson didn’t play like a freshman last season, turning in big performances on the biggest stages. This season, he’s playing more like a senior than a sophomore. And he talks with a maturity beyond his class as well.
On Sunday at Conte Forum, Jackson tied for game highs with 18 points and nine rebounds, and he came up with the game-deciding plays in a 61-60 over Miami.
“Now that we don’t have Tyrese [Rice], and Rakim [Sanders is] out, we need people to step up,” teammate Corey Raji said. “I feel that he’s been doing a pretty good job of that since Rakim got hurt. I feel that he’ll continue to do that job. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in him that he’ll continue to step up.”
After BC had squandered a 16-point lead and allowed the Hurricanes to tie the score at 57 on a Malcolm Grant drive with 2:26 left, it was Jackson who found a way top get the ball in his hands when BC needed a big play.
With less than two minutes left, Joe Trapani missed a 3-pointer from the side opposite the BC bench, but Jackson saw that Miami sent extra bodies to the glass to counter BC’s Corey Raji and Josh Southern. Jackson followed the ball as it caromed to the other side of the rim, grabbed the rebound and laid it in for the biggest basket of the night.
[Raji] drew about three guys, Josh [Southern] drew some attention. … I figured I should take the opportunity,” Jackson said. “I got to just walk under the basket and grab the rebound. After that it was easy. Just put it on the glass and let the rest happen.”
|12.06.09 at 9:11 pm ET|
The Boston College basketball team is developing a pattern. Play a strong first half; come out of it with a lead. Extend said lead to double digits. Lose lead. Secure win in final seconds of game.
Sure, it makes for a great game, but how long can BC make the formula work to its advantage?
For the third straight game, BC blew a big lead — this time 16 points with 12 minutes remaining — but regrouped in time to pull out the win, 61-60 over Miami in the ACC opener for both teams Sunday at Conte Forum.
With 2:26 left in the game, Miami guard Malcolm Grant (18 points) hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 57, capping an 8-0 run by the Hurricanes. It looked as if BC had run out of gas and Miami was just getting started. “I think we were relying too much on getting calls,” BC coach Al Skinner said. If that was the case, the Eagles decided to rely on themselves to win. Sophomore guard Reggie Jackson (18 points, 9 rebounds) grabbed the rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Joe Trapani and laid it in for a two-point lead with 1:48 left.
After Miami missed a 3-pointer, BC missed one as well, but it went out of bounds off a Miami player who was under pressure from BC forward Corey Raji (17 points 9 rebounds). BC could not take advantage, as Jackson was called for a questionable charging call on a spectacular dunk. Miami set up a play to get Grant a look at a potential game-winning shot, but he missed a trey in the face of sound defense by the Eagles. Jackson netted the rebound and was fouled with 2.3 seconds on the clock.
Jackson drained both free throws, making Grant’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer from halfcourt a moot point as BC walked away with a 61-60 win.
|12.06.09 at 6:08 pm ET|
What does an 8-4 record and a second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic earn you? A trip to San Francisco for a date with perennial Pac-10 powerhouse the University of Southern California. The Emerald Bowl at AT&T Park will be held on Dec. 26 at 8 p.m. EST and will be shown on ESPN.
After BC failed to make it to a third straight ACC championship game, many pundits figured that San Francisco would be the likely destination for the Eagles and first-year head coach Frank Spaziani. BC was not going to go to Nashville for the Music City Bowl after going last year, and the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., will probably extend and invitation to the University of North Carolina.
It creates an interesting matchup as USC is a perennial title contender, though the Trojans had an off year and accepted the non-BCS bowl berth. Its coach, Pete Carroll, is no stranger to New England denizens after being the coach of the Patriots from 1997-99.
|12.01.09 at 5:28 pm ET|
Boston College freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly and junior offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo were named to the All-ACC first team on Monday. BC also added a pair of players — sophomore running back Montel Harris and senior center Matt Tennant — as second teams. Here is the press release from the Boston College Media Relations department:
Boston College junior offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly were named to the All-ACC first team, the league announced today. Senior center Matt Tennant and sophomore running back Montel Harris were named to the second team.
Kuechly ranks second in the nation in solo tackles (81) and total tackles (142) and has recorded 10 or more tackles in each of the last eight games. Castonzo was an All-ACC second team selection last year as a sophomore.
Senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell, junior offensive guard Thomas Claiborne and sophomore punter Ryan Quigley were honorable mention selections.
In addition to Castonzo, the rest of the All-ACC first-team offense included QB Josh Nesbitt (Georgia Tech), RB Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech), RB Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), WR Demaryius Thomas (Georgia Tech), WR Donovan Varner (Duke), TE George Bryan (NC State), TE Michael Palmer (Clemson), OT Jason Fox (Miami), OG Rodney Hudson (Florida State), OG Cord Howard (Georgia Tech), C Sean Bedford (Georgia Tech), K Matt Waldron (Virginia Tech), K Matt Bosher (Miami) and specialist CJ Spiller (Clemson).
In addition to Kuechly, the first-team defense includes DE Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech), DE Robert Quinn (North Carolina), DT Nate Collins (Virginia), DT Allen Bailey (Miami), LB Cody Grimm (Virginia Tech), LB Quan Sturdivant (North Carolina), LB Alex Wujciak (Maryland), CB Kendric Burney (North Carolina), CB Brandon Harris (Miami), S DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson), S Deunta Williams (North Carolina) and P Brent Bowden (Virginia Tech).
|12.01.09 at 2:21 pm ET|
Boston College freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly has been named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. Here is the press release from BC media relations:
Boston College Media Relations
December 1, 2009
Kuechly Named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year
Boston College freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly has been named Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2009 in voting by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
Although Kuechly’s name wasn’t bandied about the water cooler in August – the recruit database and one website suggested he was no better than the 49th-rated linebacker in the Class of 2009 nationwide – the 6-3, 225-pound true freshman from Cincinnati is averaging 11.83 total tackles per game. That’s the highest average by any rookie since theNCAA began tracking tackles in 2003.
Kuechly has led several important defensive stands that have made the difference in another successful BC season.
• In an eventual 28-21 win over Florida State on Oct. 3, Kuechly was in on three straight goal-line stops of the Seminoles’ Lonnie Pryor in a vital second-quarter sequence.
• Protecting a 16-10 lead at Maryland this past Saturday, Kuechly halted Terrapin quarterback Jamarr Robinson on a fourth-and-inches sneak. The Eagles converted the change of possession into a field goal and an ultimately unbeatable nine-point lead.
• Kuechly completed the Eagles’ 31-3 win over Central Michigan on Oct. 31 when he intercepted Ryan Radcliff’s pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. BC held LeFevour, who went 33-of-46 for-328 yards in an earlier win over Michigan State , to 152 yards.
In all, Kuechly has made 10 or more tackles in eight straight games. He leads the ACC in tackles per game and is second nationally to New Mexico linebacker Carmen Messina (13.50).
Kuechly, one of seven players receiving votes for Defensive Rookie of the Year, was the choice on 29 of the 40 ballots.
The Eagles, picked to finish last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, claimed second with a 5-3 league record. Their defense stands 21st nationally in yardage allowed and 20th in points allowed.
BC is the only one of the Atlantic Division’s six programs to win five or more ACC games in all five years of divisional play.
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams was named ACC Offensive and overall Rookie of the Year.
Update: Correction – Kuechly intercepted Ryan Radcliff’s pass and returned it for a touchdown, not Dan LeFevour.
|11.29.09 at 1:47 am ET|
At halftime, with the Boston College basketball team’s lead sitting at 11, it appeared as if the Eagles had figured out the Providence press and were going to roll to an easy win.
Oh, how quickly things can change.
With just under five minutes remaining, BC’s lead had slimmed all the way down to one, the Friars mounting a furious charge. After Joe Trapani hit one of his two free throws, Providence took the lead on a 3-pointer by Sharaud Curry, who came out sizzling in the second half. After trading baskets and turnovers for the final four minutes, BC was able to take a lead on a three-point play by Josh Southern (11 points). Two more Biko Paris free throws after a BC steal put the Eagles up by three, which proved just enough when Curry came up just short on a game-tying attempt from beyond the arc. Trapani then hit his final two free throws to bring home the win for the Eagles, 82-77.
It was a game that at one point looked like a runaway win. But after a furious comeback by the Friars, the Eagles were once again tested by a late run from an opponent that refused to go away. Unlike its previous loss at the hands of Northern Iowa, Boston College managed to hold on and come out on the winning end.
“We’re very fortunate to win,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “It shows a certain amount of mental toughness, and it was nice to see, because we had enough excuses not to win the basketball game.”
Here are three things we learned from the escape act:
TRAPANI IS A TOUGH HOMBRE
After being bedridden for the past three days, the 6-foot-8 junior surprised even his coach Saturday night, coming out and dropping 19 points in the BC victory. Though the forward struggled at times, it was his efforts in the final minutes that proved key in what turned out to be a very close win.
“He was in bed all day,” Skinner said of Trapani, who came down with three rebounds and scored five points in the last five minutes of the game. “For him to come out and give an effort like that, just shows a lot of toughness on his part.”
Skinner went on to explain that even he wasn’t sure Trapani would be able to total 31 minutes on the night with his illness.
But Trapani’s performance, especially during the second half of a game that turned into a nail-biter, earned notice as evidence of a player who will do what is necessary to contribute in key moments. Even after being in bed for the past three days, Trapani was still able to turn it on when the Eagles needed it the most.
BC REFUSED TO BE PRESSED
Every now and then, Providence’s full-court press looked as if it was giving the Eagles some issues. But that wasn’t very often.
For the better part of the game, the Eagles were able to exploit the Friars’ constant ball pressure and turn it into easy baskets in the paint for both Southern and Trapani.
After Providence totaled a season-high 19 steals in a victory over Vermont last week, it was obvious the Friars would be rushing hard at the BC ball handlers. But the Eagles only turned the ball over a total of 10 times during the game, proving that their discipline and court vision came through under duress.
“[The key to beating the press was] just not letting them rush us, and slowing down to our pace” said junior forward Corey Raji, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles. “Once we were down, we had to fight back and stay together. I felt we handled their pressure very well.”
Even though the Friars made a comeback in the second half, it’s important to note that it wasn’t because of the full-court pressure. Instead, it was simply a matter of a team that launches about 30 treys a game getting hot at some point.
Despite the fact that the game was close in the end, Boston College can take consolation in the fact that it remained disciplined with the press throughout, exploiting the weakness that such a defense reveals under the opposing basket.
REGGIE JACKSON CAN STIR THE DRINK
There are times during the game when BC guard Reggie Jackson elevates his play. But then, there are also times where he gets caught up in the emotions of the game, and his play seems to suffer.
For most of Saturday night’s game, Jackson handled himself very well, dominating the offensive boards as well as the defensive end. After Raji’s hot start (12 points, 9 boards in the first 10 minutes), it was Jackson who turned out to be the Eagles’ main source of offense throughout the night, reeling in 12 rebounds and scoring a team-leading 20 points.
But his defense may have been even more important than his offensive output. For most of the night, Jackson was guarding Marshon Brooks, who was shut down for the better part of the game (3 points, 2 fouls at halftime). Brooks heated up towards the end of the game, ending with 16 points, though it was still a far cry from the 24 that he posted in Providence’s win over UVM last week — a testament to Jackson’s defensive abilities.
“Since we got back from the Virgin Islands, it’s been defense,” Jackson said. “Scouting, watching film, figuring out how we’re going to defend teams this year.”
Nobody has ever questioned Jackson’s raw ability, and the Eagles will be looking for similar high-output efforts throughout the season from him. His development bears monitoring, because as Skinner said himself before the season even started, the sophomore has a lot to learn.
Even so, he appears to be evolving into a key player on both sides of the ball for Boston College.