The Three-Pointer: BC gets a win over Virginia Tech that it needed badly
|02.05.11 at 6:26 pm ET|
At the midpoint of the ACC season, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State have settled into the top three positions, with some separation (at least psychologically) from the rest of the pack.
Considering the league as a whole is down this year — only Duke and UNC are ranked — there might be only one other team that earns an NCAA tournament berth.
On Saturday at Conte Forum, BC stated its case to be that team. The Eagles, who had slipped from first into a three-way tie for fifth with losses in their last three games, held off Virginia Tech, 58-56, to move into a tie for fourth with the Hokies.
The Eagles were aware that they needed to stop their freefall in a hurry, and they did it with an impressive win against a Virginia Tech team picked for second in the preseason media poll.
“If we didn’t win this, we’re probably not significant in the league anymore, probably don’t have a chance to go to the big dance,” BC guard Reggie Jackson said. “We needed this to boost our confidence, our egos, and get back on the right track.”
Added BC coach Steve Donahue: “It does a lot for us. You’re only human in the sense that you’re going to question a little bit what’s going on after you play three very good teams, and then you get shellacked the last one by a team that was really on a roll.
“I sensed that the guys really wanted to get back on the court [after Tuesday's blowout loss to UNC]. I thought we had two good practices. We brought the guys in on individual film and they really wanted to see what they could do better to mend what happened. And I thought that’s what you saw. I thought we really had a purpose for 40 minutes tonight, and that’s going to help your confidence.”
Jackson continued to struggle through a two-week shooting slump (more on that below), but he came up with some key plays down the stretch as the Eagles improved to 15-8 overall and 5-4 in ACC play.
Joe Trapani continued his stellar play of late, with 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, including a key rejection of Tech’s Malcolm Delaney in the final minute.
“I think Traps has played hard the whole year,” Donahue said. “One thing we said in the coaches [meeting] after the game: Joe is getting better as we go along. He’s very coachable right now. He’s really understanding what we want. And then you put that together with a kid who just plays so hard. No one’s every questioned how hard he plays.
“So, now with that size and that athleticism, and he’s learning more about how we want him [to play]. I think he’s played more poised. I thought his moves in the first half were some of the best he’s had since I’ve been here. Just really good poise around the rim. That’s what you enjoy doing.You like coaching kids and watching them progress with things you work on. Joe has definitely done that.”
Jeff Allen had a monster game for Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-4), scoring 25 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. Delaney, the league’s second-leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, netted 19 points — including three big shots down the stretch to keep his team in the game — but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 24 seconds left with a chance to tie it.
The Hokies got the rebound and Delaney got a second chance, but his shot down low was blocked by Trapani. Virginia Tech again got the rebound and had one more shot to tie or win. With Jackson smothering Delaney up top, the ball was sent to a wide-open Erick Green in front of the Tech bench.
“Delaney, we know, clutch player, obviously, leading scorer. … He took it personal, kept daggering us, keeping them in the game,” Jackson said. “Last possession, I really took it, trying to get over every screen, I wanted to go man vs. man and match up on him. Joe helped me out and we played the best we could to try to outside him in on help-side.
“He swung the ball, fortunately Green got it in his hands. All we were praying — I believe all of us were saying, ‘Don’t let this be your only 3 that you hit tonight.’ Luckily he missed it.”
Green, who finished 0-for-8 overall and 0-for-4 on treys, bounced his shot off the rim. BC’s Biko Paris was fouled from behind on the rebound. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with a second left, but Trapani deflected the rebound and time ran out.
BC led by as much as 10 in the opening half, after a 3-pointer by Danny Rubin made it 22-12 with 7:21 remaining in the period. The Hokies then closed the period by outscoring BC 12-5, cutting BC’s lead to 27-24 at the break.
The second half was tight throughout. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jackson and Trapani gave BC a 54-49 advantage with 4:25 left. The lead was three when with 2:31 left, Rubin missed a fast-break jumper but Jackson grabbed the rebound and, as he was falling out of bounds, threw it off a Virginia Tech player. Josh Southern‘s layup five seconds later made it a five-point game, 56-51.
With 1:50 left, Jackson missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Delaney made the Eagles pay, hitting a high-arching, fallaway 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Trapani, to make it 56-54 with 1:28 left.
With 1:09 remaining, Jackson posted up and finished with a nice move in the paint. Delaney answered with a long jumper 13 seconds later to make it 58-56, and that capped the scoring for the day, despite the exciting final seconds
Here is the Three-Pointer of things we learned from Saturday’s game.
JACKSON IS SHOWING SIGNS OF ENDING HIS SLUMP
Reggie Jackson’s point production had gone down each of the last five games, to a season low of six in Tuesday’s blowout loss to North Carolina.
He was scoreless Saturday — missing his first five shots — until 11:07 remained, when he hit a fallaway runner on the right side while being fouled. He hit the free throw for a three-point play and a three-point BC lead, 42-39.
Jackson hit his next basket exactly a minute later, using a nice move to get free for a layup. He drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 5:02 left to regain the lead for BC at 51-49. The Eagles would not trail again.
Jackson finished with 10 points, still well below his season average of 18.5 per game, but at least he was there in the clutch, creating offense. He missed a couple of drives, but Donahue was pleased to see him getting to the basket.
“I think he’s thinking too much about jump shots,” Donahue said. “And the thing that he does best is he attacks the rim. He’s gotten away from that, for a couple of reasons. One, I think he was making a lot of 3′s, so he was confident. So, now he’s gotten away from what he does best, and that’s attacking the basket.
“Those ones he did [Saturday] are the plays that he should do,” Donahue continued. “We should get him some post-ups. We should get him some drives to the rim. And I think, really, he’s just not used to doing it. I think it’s one of those things, you’ve got to get back to doing what you do well. I think you’ll see him convert those.”
Jackson also made more of a contribution elsewhere — certainly more so than in the previous two games — finishing with three rebounds, four assists and two steals (and just one turnover). He had a great hustle play with 2:31 left when he grabbed the rebound of Rubin’s missed jumper and, while falling out of bounds, threw it off a Virginia Tech defender so BC could maintain possession. Southern scored on a layup five seconds later to push BC’s lead back to five.
Then, at the other end, Jackson stole the ball from Allen. And he was all over Delaney in the closing seconds, making sure the Tech sharpshooter didn’t get a chance to hit the game-winner.
Said Donahue: “We have enough guys that can shoot. I think Reggie’s job is to do other things. I think he can help us on the defensive boards. I think he can help us on defense. I thought that play at the end with Allen posting up and him coming from the side was probably our best defensive alertness play of the year.”
Jackson agreed with his coach’s assessment. “I really could care less [about scoring],” he said. “I just want to win.
BC MAKES CASE FOR ITS DEFENSE
BC’s defense in the last three games has been, to put it kindly, not good. And Virginia Tech entered the game as the top shooting team in league play, at .458 (and an even-better .467 in all games). Against BC, the Hokies had their worst shooting night of the season at .345 (20-for-58).
Donahue said he attempted to simplify things for his team, sticking mainly to man defense.
“We really set our defense, we worried about floor balance a little more and made sure that we had our defenses set,” he said. “I didn’t change defenses as much. I just thought we could focus in on one thing and let this group do that, and I thought they did a good job of it.”
BC started strong, limiting Virginia Tech to 12 points through the first 13 minutes in taking a 22-12 lead and settling for a 27-24 lead at the break.
“I thought the first half we really made sure that they had hard looks,” Donahue said. “And I thought we did a good job. Delaney’s three 3′s came on his last three looks, I believe, late in the game. I thought the guys were engaged on the defensive end, understanding it, what a purpose we needed.”
Delaney, who finished 6-of-17, was guarded for much of the night by Gabe Moton. The freshman, averaging 12.5 minutes per game, played 20 Saturday, which was part of Donahue’s plan.
“My honest opinion is I think he’s our best on-ball defender,” Donahue said. “I think Gabe does a very good job. … He’s pretty good in terms of understanding what guys are trying to do. He doesn’t leave his feet very often. He moves laterally really well. And the other thing is he’s more fresh than the other guys. He’s not playing 35 minutes a game, where if Reggie and Biko would be. I think Gabe does a very good job. In that stretch that we made a little run, I thought Gabe had a huge part of it.”
Then, on the game’s key play, BC’s defense again came up big, getting the ball out of the hands of Delaney.
“We talked about it quite a bit, in the sense that the kid’s so good late in the clock that you’re going to probably have to run at him and make him give it up,” Donahue said. “And the other three guys have to realize what the two guys are doing and make someone else make a hard shot.”
That shot was an open one by Green, but BC will take it.
Said Trapani: “Obviously, we were lucky to come out with this win, but it’s definitely a tribute to our defense.”
JEFF ALLEN IS A HANDFUL
The Virginia Tech senior came into Saturday’s game needing 18 rebounds for 1,000 in his career. He got 19. A career 1,500-point scorer, Allen also netted a game-high 25 points.
Allen, 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, averages 12.6 points and 9.6 rebounds this season. He almost doubled those totals Saturday in recording his fourth straight double-double. In fact, he had a double-double by halftime (13 points, 11 rebounds).
“The kid Allen is just a beast and has a terrific motor, goes after his own misses,” Donahue said. “Most of those are ones, it’s not like, ‘Hey, you’re not checking out.’ That kid just does a terrific job of going after his own misses. And we talked about it, but I think he’s as good in the country as I’ve seen at just really getting a shot and following it and just being so relentless on the boards.”