In the Commonwealth Classic between UMass and Boston College, the Eagles were simply overwhelmed. Despite getting off to a nice start and opening up a 16-8 lead over the in-state rivals, Steve Donahue's boys were outmatched. I've said it before and I'll say it again: this team is young. I know people will probably get tired of the same old excuses for why this team is so bad, but the excuses are valid. Coach D has his work cut out for him.
Coming off a blowout loss to Holy Cross, the Eagles headed home to face a decent UMass team. At this point in the season, it's really hard to get any sort of idea of how good these teams are. I knew UMass had been impressive up to this point, but I certainly did not expect what transpired Monday night.
After the first five minutes of the game, the Eagles could do absolutely nothing on offense. You have to give credit to the UMass coaching staff. They utilized a full-court press nearly the entire game and it proved to be deadly for the Eagles, forcing 23 turnovers. The press caused the inexperienced Eagles to make numerous passes just to get the ball past half court. In retrospect, it seems like the obvious choice of defense. They know that this BC team has very little experience playing with one another and is still developing team chemistry. Without an established ball handler, the Eagles were completely thrown off by the aggressive defense. Last year's star, Reggie Jackson, was in attendance Monday night and, man, BC could have used him on the court. Jordan Daniels and Gabe Moton are still battling for the starting point guard position while sharing ball handling duties with John Cahill and Patrick Heckmann as well. Daniels and Moton combined for 8 turnovers to just 5 assists. As a team, the Eagles sported a 23-12 turnover to assist ratio (that's really bad).
During the brief spurt when the Eagles looked competent on offense, they were powered by Heckmann and Ryan Anderson. Once again, Heckmann looked very aggressive, attacking the basket whenever he had the chance. At one point, he had scored 7 points without an official field goal attempt. He finished the game with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Anderson once again showed his range, knocking down 2 shots from behind the arc early in the contest. Outside of those two, there wasn't a whole lot to be optimistic about on offense. The team shot 14-45 from the field and only 13-25 from the charity stripe (also really bad). There will be many more games like this for a team that is clearly in a rebuilding stage. It will take time for these young players to develop, but Anderson and Heckmann continue to show promising potential.
As the game wore on, it became apparent that this young squad was getting frustrated. Nothing was working on offense and UMass began to score at will. 5'9" guard, Chaz Williams shredded BC all night, scoring 16 points and adding 5 assists. The Minutemen pushed the pace whenever they could to get the Eagles off balance. It worked. Donahue's team was unable to force turnovers and consistently allowed UMass to get open looks. Along with Williams, the Minutemen had 3 other players score double digit points. The Eagles were outscored 45-20 in the second half on route to a 36 point loss at home. Coach D maintains that this team will get better, but that they will likely get worse first. Chemistry will develop and leaders will emerge. Right now, there is nobody on the court with the necessary experience to lead this team when they hit rough patches. Guys who are used to dominating at the high school level are suddenly meeting athletes that can defend them. It's going to take lots of failure and lots of time for this team to develop into a competitive ACC team, but it will. Coach Donahue knows what he is doing. It's going to be a long season. Hopefully in a year or two, we will be able to look back and see that by struggling their freshman year, these players got the necessary experience to transform BC into a competitor in this conference.