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Boston College 62, Virginia Tech 59: Eagles Notch First ACC Win

The Boston College Eagles got their first ACC win of the year and it came on the road. It went down to the wire, but BC escaped Virginia Tech with a solid victory.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston College Eagles grabbed their first ACC win on Saturday afternoon when they took down the Virginia Tech Hokies by a final score of 62-59 on the road. It wasn't the prettiest of basketball games, but it was a conference win. After a miserable start to the season, maybe this win can give the Eagles some confidence to put together a decent stretch of basketball throughout their ACC schedule.

The Eagles had a pretty nice showing in the first half, getting contributions from some relatively unexpected sources. Lonnie Jackson was particularly great, scoring 14 points in the first 20 minutes (more on him a little later). it still wasn't a great defensive effort, but they went into the break trailing just 34-32. Considering some of the outcomes of other games this year, I was mildly pleased with that.

Boston College got off to a slow start in the second half, but oddly enough, their defense kept them in it. The defense is much much better when they have a big body like Dennis Clifford clogging up the paint and forcing opponents to change their shots in the air.

Down the stretch, the Eagles made a bunch of bad mistakes. They made unnecessary passes and committed stupid turnovers. Somehow, they still had a chance to win the game. Down 59-58 with 33.1 seconds left, Steve Donahue took a timeout and got Lonnie Jackson an open three, which he drained. From that point, the game was in the hands of the defense. That's normally not a good thing, but VT didn't really have any idea what they wanted to do with their final possession. Give the Eagles some credit because they played great defense and forced a bad shot.

Quick notes and thoughts:

  • Dennis Clifford provided some solid minutes in the beginning of the first half. I know most people (including myself) didn't think Clifford would do a whole lot this season, but it's nice to see that he's able to contribute something. Once it became clear that Clifford was not going to be redshirted, we kind of just had to hope for the best. His early minutes against Virginia Tech were encouraging. The defense certainly looks better with a rim-protector like Clifford and it's pretty obvious how much a guy with that kind of size can impact a game while hardly scoring at all.
  • I loved that Clifford was able to be so active. He's never been an exceptionally quick guy, but he was getting good elevation when going for rebounds and was diving on the ground for loose balls. He was even contesting threes on the perimeter. It's nice to see and I'm really happy for him.
  • Lonnie Jackson had the three-ball working early on as well. He hit 4 of his first 5 shots from behind the arc after entering the game shooting just 31.1% from deep. It doesn't take a genius to tell you that everything about this team looks better when the three-pointers are falling. It's a team built on three-point shooting and it just doesn't have defense or consistent offense elsewhere to survive without hitting a lot of threes. Jackson is probably the best perimeter shooter on the team and if this team wants to be competitive for the rest of the season, they need him to submit more performances like this.
  • What happened to Ryan Anderson's scoring? He grabbed 12 rebounds, but scored just 6 points on 2 of 5 shooting. I understand that BC was able to consistently get open threes against Virginia Tech, but you still need to establish some sort of inside scoring presence. Anderson is one of the few players on this team that presents a matchup problem for most opponents -- so why not feature him on offense a little more? I'm not sure who deserves that blame. It's probably a combination of the game plan, the guards for not feeding him in the paint, and Anderson for not being aggressive in establishing position and calling for the ball.
  • To give you a better idea of why BC probably needs Anderson to score more often, the three-pointers that were falling in the 1st half suddenly stopped falling in the first part of the 2nd half. Patrick Heckmann had several wide open looks and just couldn't get them to fall. A more balanced attack with Anderson able to supply an easy bucket when the team needs it would be ideal.
  • Olivier Hanlan remains a good player. He also remains the only player on BC that can create his own shot off the dribble. He should do that more often and not just wait until the end of shot clocks. He normally thrives off getting foul calls and shooting free throws, but he seemed reluctant to force the issue today. I have no idea why.
I know we're past the point of making excuses for this team and that they've likely dug themselves too big of a hole to recover, but today's game really showed how much they've missed Clifford. He's not an offensive force by any means, but he makes a huge difference on defense. When he has the mobility that he showed today, he covers up a lot of his teammates' mistakes. He was challenging shots all over the place and forcing bad pull-up jumpers instead of easy layups. You can't help but wonder how much different some of these early season losses would have been if BC had Clifford all year long.

There's still too many mistakes made by this team and this is a team that just can't afford to make mistakes. They have key defensive breakdowns and unacceptable turnovers on offense. If BC is going to win more than one or two games in the ACC, they need to play virtually mistake-free basketball. They don't have the talent to compensate for repeated mental mistakes.

The Eagles will play host to the #2 Syracuse Orange on Monday. I can picture a scenario where BC puts up a good fight, but ultimately loses due to the enormous talent disparity. But it could also be an absolute bloodbath. Let's hope it's the former and we can notch another moral victory. See you then.