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The Three Pointer: BC keeps NCAA hopes alive with win over Virginia Tech

03.01.11 at 11:24 pm ET
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Virginia Tech had plenty of reasons to come out strong Tuesday night. The Hokies had momentum, coming off Saturday’s night’s upset of then-No. 1-ranked Duke. The crowd was revved up, paying tribute to the team’s seniors before their final home game. Tech was in fourth place in the ACC, putting it in position for a bye in the first round of the league tournament.

But BC was playing for its life. And it showed.

Reggie Jackson scored 20 points and the Eagles built a huge early lead en route to an attention-grabbing 76-61 victory in Blacksburg, Va.

Also for BC, Corey Raji contributed 19 points and 12 rebounds, and senior walk-on John Cahill added to his legend with 12 points on perfect shooting from the field (2-for-2, both 3-pointers) and the free throw line (6-for-6).

With the win, the Eagles (18-11, 8-7 ACC) swept the Hokies and kept alive their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid. BC closes out the regular season on Sunday afternoon when it hosts Wake Forest.

The Eagles found the mark early, taking an 18-point lead in the first half before settling for an eight-point advantage at the break, 35-27. The lead was six with 15 minutes remaining and it appeared that the teams were headed for a battle to the finish. But BC embarked on a 14-2 run, with five of the points coming from Raji, and never looked back.

Erick Green — who went 0-for-8 from the field and missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that could have given his team the win when the teams met last month at BC — led the Hokies with 21 points. Malcolm Delaney netted 17.

Here is the Three-Pointer of things we learned Tuesday night.

BC IS ABLE TO AVOID A SLOW START

In their last three games, the Eagles struggled to score their first field goal, and they struggled for the rest of the first half in two of those games. BC coach Steve Donahue acknowledged that it had become something the coaches were concerned about.

“I think there are a couple of things you can do about the mindset and coming out strong and ready to play,” he said Monday. “We’ll try to do some things, maybe some set calls, get guys looks. But really, we need to talk about it as a group and emphasize how important it is to get off to good starts on the road.”

Apparently, the message got through. Raji got the Eagles on the board 1:26 into the game, and they took off from there. They were hitting 53 percent of their shots midway through the period. When Josh Southern scored with 7:26 remaining in the period to give the Eagles an 18-point lead at 32-14, they were up to 63 percent. (They finished the game at 45 percent.)

And they continued to play the kind of defense that had kept them in the previous three games until their offense came around.

“People don’t realize that sometimes that we’re guarding and getting some stops,” Donahue said Monday. “Even though we’re not scoring the basketball, I’m not that dissatisfied because I sense that we’re playing pretty good defense. If we continue to do what we want on the offensive end, we’ll get it. But people look at the scoreboard and say you’re down 7-2, and there are 12 minutes left to go in the half. Obviously I want to score, but defense is also a huge part of this.”

THE BENCH IS GETTING SHORTER

Early in the season, Donahue went to his bench early and often. In Saturday’s win over Virginia, he used a season-low eight players. On Tuesday night vs. Virginia Tech, the starters — which for the second straight game included Cahill — and first three subs again played big minutes.
Donahue on Monday said it was no accident that he’s turned to the bench less often.

“We’re changing as my first year with this program, trying to figure out exactly what we can do each week to get better, and that’s where we’re at right now,” he explained. “I feel comfortable with those guys. They’ve proven that they can play. Obviously went with a smaller lineup, and I felt more comfortable with that as well — defensively, offensively, all those things. As of right now, that’s where we feel we’re at. It is by design, for sure.”

Cahill again proved to be up to the challenge. The former BC women’s team practice player started the season as a novelty (at least to those outside the program), but he quickly went from scrub to super sub to starter. On Tuesday, he scored a career-high 12 points and corralled five rebounds.

Perhaps being the son of a Division 1 referee has helped him develop the ability to stay calm under pressure. Even when he was guarded by Delaney — one of the league’s top players — Cahill never flinched. When sent to the free throw line — where he had only been six times this season — he looked like a veteran, converting all six of his chances.

BC CAN BOARD

When these two teams met on Feb. 5 (a 58-56 BC win), Virginia Tech had a 40-32 advantage on the glass, thanks largely to 19 rebounds from Jeff Allen. The Hokies had 16 offensive rebounds that day.

This time around, it was a much different story. BC owned the glass, 38-22. Cahill outrebounded Allen, 5-3. Virginia Tech had two offensive rebounds.

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