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BC three-pointer: Young Eagles have promise

11.14.11 at 10:45 pm ET
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Boston College basketball coach Steve Donahue said he was “very nervous and excited” when he woke up Monday morning, with the Eagles’ season-opening game vs. New Hampshire mere hours away.

You can imagine how his players felt — especially the nine freshmen on the roster.

That’s how they played — at least at the start — scoring just 14 points through the first 14-plus minutes and falling behind by six points. The Eagles shot 30 percent in the first half before settling down and holding off UNH for a 67-64 victory in front of an announced crowd of 3,588 at Conte Forum.

“I think we knew, well, at least I figured, coming into this game that the first couple of minutes were probably going to be real ugly,” said returning guard John Cahill, a first-year grad student in his second year with the program. “You’ve got a lot of young guys, really excited to come out here for the first time in front of all their peers, fans and all that. I think once we got though that four minutes, they kind of realized that all right, we can do this. We’re ready to go now. Get the jitters out. I think we did a good job calming down.

“We have a lot of young guys, but we have a lot of talent and a lot of playmakers. They’re going to have to grow up fast.”

Donahue said he knows what he’s in for, with 11 new players in all (two transfers). He just needs to remind himself once in a while that the process will take time.

“I probably didn’t have the right approach for the American International [exhibition] game,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate the last four years of winning a lot of basketball games and being on the right side of the ledger and playing very well. I have to realize that we’re going to make a ton of mistakes out there, and I have to react properly. And I don’t think I reacted properly the last game.”

Added Donahue: “I’m just going to be mentally prepared to realize that this isn’t going to look pretty. It’s just not. It’s unfair for me to assume that. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to go out and we’re going to work tomorrow three hours and we’re going to try to get better in every part of execution. And we will get better.”

Patrick Heckmann led the way for the Eagles with 19 points and eight rebounds. Fellow freshman forward Ryan Anderson had 13 points and 10 boards. Junior transfer Matt Humphrey scored 12 points but had five turnovers. Freshman center Dennis Clifford contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Eagles had a rough night at the free throw line, hitting just 17-of-31 and giving UNH some chances down the stretch with some key misses.

Said Donahue: “I’m a little frustrated with our free throw shooting. ‘€¦ Those guys are all good foul shooters. We obviously had our chances to seal it completely and we didn’t with foul shooting. I think we have to be a great foul shooting team. That’s something that we should be good at. These kids all can shoot. A little nerves. A little fatigue, not used to game action. We’re going to work on it, but I think we’re going to be a good foul shooting team.”

Here is the three-pointer of things we learned from Monday’s game.

HECKMANN IS THE GO-TO GUY

Last season, there was no question who would get the ball if the Eagles needed a big basket. Reggie Jackson was the first option. Joe Trapani was No. 2. Monday night, the Eagles had four players in double figures, but it wasn’t until the final minutes when someone stepped forward.

“I felt it tonight that he wanted the ball, he wanted to be the guy,” Donahue said of the German import.

Heckmann will shoot the trey or drive as needed.  With 2:42 left and the Eagles’ 11-point lead trimmed to one, Heckmann drove for a key layup.

“Pat’s a guy we have a lot of faith in,” Cahill said. “We’re really comfortable when he has the ball in his hands. We know he’s going to make good decisions. He’s a tough matchup for guys. He can do it all, pretty much. That’s a big thing for us. He’s going to make a lot of plays for us.”

CAHILL IS A KEY

You know how on Sunday night during the Patriots-Jets game you found yourself saying, “I hope James Ihedigbo isn’t seriously hurt, because the Patriots secondary can’t afford to lose him,” and then you wondered how a guy like that became so important? Well, BC would have been similarly hurt by the loss of Cahill, a first-year graduate student who walked on to the team last year as a senior and soon became a valuable role player.

Cahill brings maturity and steadiness to a young team that desperately needs it. He had three assists and came up with a huge basket with 53 seconds left when he nailed an open 3-pointer from the corner off a pass from a driving Humphrey.

“Before then I made a big turnover, so I was on suicide watch there for a second,” Cahill joked.

More important than his stats, Cahill plays the “coach on the floor” role well. Donahue explained that Cahill was originally going to be a graduate assistant coach this year, but he was pressed into service because the coaches felt they needed his presence.

Said Donahue: “As we got here and you see so many younger guys and you’re trying to coach them, John’s like an extension of us out there, as an assistant. And he’s a good basketball player. He can settle guys down. He can find the right man. He knows what to do and not to do. So, I think he can help these younger players and their growth.

“Originally, I thought maybe it takes minutes away from guys. But I honestly feel that there’s enough minutes to go around for all these guys. I think you’re helping their growth rather than stunting it by playing him. I think it helps. And obviously, it helps you win games. He’s our best defender in a lot of ways. He steps up and can make shots, doesn’t turn it over, doesn’t lose his poise. I think we need someone like that.”

KEEP AN EYE ON JORDAN DANIELS

Daniels, one of the four freshmen from Southern California, stands only 5-foot-9, but he can fly. He was impressive at times running the offense, breaking past his man to get to the basket and creating opportunities for himself and others. His stat line was not impressive (0-for-2, one assist, one turnover) but the potential was evident.

“I thought Jordan Daniels did a good job running the team when he was in there,” Donahue said, “He had a couple of plays that were in and out that he could have gotten. He hadn’t shown that in practice as much. I’m needing someone to step up at that point guard spot. We’re doing it by committee now. I’d love for someone to really say hey, I can be the point guard here. Jordan I thought did that in stretches in the first and second half. He can make shots as well.”

Daniels and sophomore Gabe Moton each played 12 minutes in support of Cahill, the starter.

Read More: John Cahill, Patrick Heckmann, Ryan Anderson, Steve Donahue
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