It was a tale of two halves for the Boston College men's basketball team in their season opener Sunday afternoon against Florida International.
The Eagles jumped out to a 49-33 halftime lead, at one point leading by 18. Ryan Anderson picked up where he left off at the end of last season, going into the half with a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds). He finished with a career high 29 points and 17 boards. Steve Donahue's freshman backcourt of Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon looked strong right out of the gate, making good decisions and distributing the ball well. Hanlan, in particular, was a big reason why Anderson had 17 points at half.
BC was able to overcome several first-half turnovers by exploiting the size mismatch with Dennis (The Big Maroon Dog) Clifford in the paint. The Eagles big man had a whole six inches over every other FIU starter and had several easy buckets and dunks in the first half. Heckmann added a pair of threes on consecutive trips down the floor, while Van Nest added some much needed depth to the Eagles' frontcourt.
The 49 first-half points were the most for Boston College under Coach Donahue, though the Eagles' first half performance wasn't without its issues. Boston College's defense remains a work-in-progress, giving up plenty of wide open looks from beyond the arc. FIU started the game 4-of-6 from range before cooling off to finish the remainder of the half 1-of-8.
It wouldn't be Boston College basketball if the Eagles didn't make this one interesting.
The Golden Panthers used a 36-16 run to draw even with the Eagles at the 8:27 mark of the second half. FIU's full court press flustered the Eagles early and BC's poor perimeter defense gave the Golden Panthers a bunch of open looks from beyond the arc.
At about the six minute mark, the Eagles started to pull away, ratcheting up the defense and going on a 12-0 run to spoil FIU coach Richard Pitino's debut. Rahon, in particular, came up with a string of good plays on the defensive end to spark the Eagles run.
As for the takeaways in this one, it's an encouraging sign that BC was able to use its size advantage to come away with an edge on the glass (46-28 BC) -- an area where the Eagles struggled a great deal a season ago. Boston College was also able weather FIU's second-half run, regain its composure and pull away in the game's final six minutes. Anderson showed everyone why he was a unanimous ACC All-Freshman selection last season while the freshman backcourt of Hanlan and Rahon showed great promise. The Eagles also got solid contributions out of Heckmann, Clifford, Odio (in limited action) and Harvard transfer Andrew Van Nest.
Still, there is plenty to work on. BC allowed FIU to shoot 37.5 percent from three (9-of-24) and struggled from range at the other end of the floor, finishing with just Heckman's two first half three pointers -- 2-of-17 (11.76%). BC also finished with 17 TOs and Hanlan, Rahon and Jackson all finished the afternoon with four personal fouls. The Eagles also can't afford to let other teams hang around early in the second half as they did with the Golden Panthers.
Overall though, it was a promising start to Steve Donahue's third season on the Heights. The Eagles next return to action on Thursday against Baylor in the opening round of the Charleston Classic.