If you had to pick an ACC opponent to start the road portion of the conference schedule against, you could do a lot worse than Virginia Tech. The Hokies came into this game reeling -- having lost four of its last five and getting blown out by 36, 26 and 23 points in their last three.
The Eagles were able to capitalize, overcoming a poor first-half shooting performance to earn their first conference road win in over a full season with an 86-75 victory over the Hokies at Cassell Coliseum. Boston College last won a road ACC game on March 1, 2011, again at Cassell.
BC came out flat in the early going. Most of the Eagles shots from range were left short, and practically every non-Ryan Anderson dunk shot was bricked. The team finished a paltry 11-for-28 (.393) from the floor and just 2-for-8 (.250) from three in the first half.
But credit the team for making adjustments. Instead of chucking up three after three in hopes that they'd start falling, the BC offense adjusted, opting instead to aggressively attack the basket. The Eagles challenged the Hokies by successfully working the ball down low, drawing plenty of foul calls and getting to the line 17 times in the first half.
Unfortunately, BC converted on just eight of those 17 first-half free-throw attempts and went into the locker room with just a six point lead.
The Eagles found their scoring touch in the second half and the shots started falling. Even better, as a team they did a fantastic job protecting the basketball. BC committed just six turnovers with only one of those coming in the second half -- the lowest TO count of the season. On the night, the Eagles finished two 3-pointers shy of Donahue's rule of 10 -- hitting 10 threes (8), turning the ball over 10 times or less (6) and limiting opponent offensive rebounds to 10 or less (7).
Ryan Anderson had another solid performance, leading all scorers with 26 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a block. Lonnie Jackson was money from the floor, hitting five threes on 5-of-8 shooting beyond the arc and finishing with 22 and seven. Hanlan added 17 and eight, while Rahon had 9 points and six assists.
Donahue played with a short bench tonight, which I thought was interesting. Four starters logged 35+ minutes -- Anderson, Rahon, Hanlan and Jackson, who played the entire game. Heckmann logged 21 minutes and played a significant number of minutes in foul trouble before ultimately fouling out. Clifford added 24 minutes of work. The rest -- Odio and Van Nest -- logged a combined five minutes on the floor. Gonna need more from both those guys going forward.
Despite the win, there is plenty of room for improvement for the Eagles. This is the second straight game where BC didn't shoot appreciably well from anywhere - not from the charity stripe (20-of-35), not from the floor (29-of-60) and not from beyond the arc (8-of-22). That will catch up with the Eagles against the more talented programs in the conference, particularly all the FT misses.
The lack of depth coming off the bench, to me, is also a significant cause for concern. BC is certainly going to need a spark off the bench if one of the starters gets in foul trouble against some of the more physical ACC programs. Donahue is going to need more than a 6-man rotation if we hope to improve on last year's 4-12 conference mark. Guys like Van Nest, Odio and even Caudill and Rubin are going to be relied on to give the starters a breather and eat up some minutes on the floor.
Overall, this is a very important win for the program, regardless of how well Virginia Tech ends up finishing the year. ACC road wins are typically hard to come by. The only player who even knew what it was like to win a conference road game is junior Danny Rubin. Hopefully this is a win that the program can build on as they have another very winnable road game coming up this Saturday in Winston-Salem. Game time is 4 PM on ESPN3.com.
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