The Boston College men's basketball team notched its first victory of the year on Sunday night, defeating the Florida Atlantic Owls 82-79 in a game closer than the final score indicated (if that's possible).
The Eagles got off to a slow start as the Owls jumped out to a 7-0 lead right out of the gate. BC would respond with a 10-0 run of its own but the two teams would trade buckets in a close first half. Joe Rahon gave the Eagles a 5-point halftime lead on a half-court buzzer beater as the clock hit 0:00, a basket that proved to be the difference in this game.
BC was able to build an 11-point lead midway through the second half on a number of layups with the Eagles D aggressively attacking the hoop. For whatever reason, the offense got away from this game plan, settling for bad shots and allowing FAU to go on a 19-9 run to cut the lead to one with a little over four minutes to play. BC's inability to close games out in the second half is becoming a starling trend through the first four games of the year.
The Eagles preserved the victory on the foul line, hitting 12-of-14 free throws to maintain the win. Not sure if it is a product of taking more attempts per game or practice over the offseason, but BC has done a great job of hitting its free throws this season. BC is now 94-for-113 on the year, 83.2%, up over 10% from last year's 71.2% average. The Eagles currently lead the ACC in free throw shooting and rank 6th best in the nation.
The close win overshadowed a brilliant performance from sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan; easily his best performance on the early season. Hanlan finished with 38 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 12-for-14 from the charity stripe. He probably could have had even more points had BC not gotten away from the offensive plan that gave them a double-digit second half lead. For all the talk of the NCAA's new hand-check rules hurting a team like Boston College, it's strange that the team doesn't feed the ball through their greatest offensive weapon against those very same rules more often.
Rahon did a bit of everything, finishing with 17 points, seven boards, an assist and a team-high two blocks (!) in the victory. Anderson had an off day, finishing just 2-of-10 from the floor. It was nice to see Lonnie Jackson's return to the lineup even if he was cold from the floor (1-of-6 from the floor, 1-of-5 from three). Caudill got his first points of the season in eight minutes of work. Owens was quiet but his athleticism was on display again last night.
On a day when three ACC teams -- North Carolina (Belmont), Notre Dame (Indiana State) and Maryland (Oregon State) -- dropped non-conference contests, BC will certainly take the victory. But there's still plenty of work ahead of this team in advance of this week's 2K Sports Classic matchups vs. #19/#20 Connecticut and #23/RV Indiana or RV/RV Washington; particularly on defense.
I can't recall where BC started the year, but the Eagles' defense is down to 107.4 in kenpom's AdjD, good for 298th nationally. That's out of 351 teams. That's ... not good, and nowhere near where this team needs to be defensively to build on last year's strong finish.