The Marist Red Foxes are, as we knew coming into the night, not a very good basketball team. Marist left Conte Forum with a 1-5 record after tonight's 79-61 loss to Boston College. They've also lost to Bucknell, Army, Florida Gulf Coast and Hawaii already this season, with their only win coming over 1-5 Fresno State. They are coming off a 12-19 year in the MAAC and are breaking in a new coach. As such, few would ever expect them to keep it close with an ACC team.
I mention all of that because such relatively comfortable outcomes have rarely been a given in the world of Boston College basketball over the last few years. We've seen plenty of games where BC has either lost to or struggled to beat a low-level team that really has no business being competitive with an ACC team - not even a bad ACC team. Last year, this could have been the Toledo game. Two years ago, it could have been the Bryant game. Even just a few weeks ago, the UNH game wasn't as easy as it maybe should have been.
But after a too-familiar ugly first half, which saw the Eagles struggle defensively and carry a 41-36 lead into the locker room, BC finally put together something resembling an expected, run-of-the-mill performance, outscoring Marist 38-25 in the second half to pick up their most lopsided win of the young season. With the victory, BC is now 3-3 on the year, and 2-0 at home after going 1-3 in four straight neutral site games.
"We're still a work in progress," said Jim Christian. "It's not going to be perfect every night. But we are getting better. The offense really improved tonight.... Execution at the end of the game was better, and we got really good looks for most of the night."
I'm not going to speak in superlatives here because, you know, Marist. But there were some noteworthy things about the BC effort tonight. Namely, it's worth noting that BC won somewhat comfortably despite the fact that Olivier Hanlan was not much of a factor in the game. Hanlan had 9 points on the day, and picked up a few of those after the game had mostly been put out of reach.
Instead, it was Aaron Brown and Dmitri Batten carrying the scoring load for the Eagles. Brown had 19 points, including a few highlight reel dunks (plus one blooper reel missed dunk that he'd probably rather not talk about, but can laugh about now). He stood out as the game's most impactful player.
Batten was also a factor for BC, hitting a pair of three pointers midway through the second half as part of the run that helped BC put the game away. He finished the night with 17 points and most importantly, looked like someone who can be a contributor for this team.
"We bring an older, veteran thing where guys can speak to us and ask us about our past experiences," said Brown after the game, speaking about himself and fellow transfer Batten. "Dmitri is my roommate, so we talk all the time about things we can do to improve as a team and get over the hump and win some of these games."
The other noteworthy thing about the game aside from the prevalence of players not named Olivier was that BC shot pretty well for most of the game - 47.4% overall and 40% (8-for-20) from behind the arc. Yes, it came against weak competition, but BC's shooting woes against UNH were what allowed that game against weak competition to remain close. Unlike the UNH game, it was the defensive end that was in need of improvement tonight.
"Defensively, the first half was about as poor as we've played this year, though we give (Marist) some credit for that," said head coach Jim Christian. "But I thought we improved in the second half... We turned them over in 5 of the first 8 possessions which enabled us to get some baskets."
BC won the rebounding battle 34-20 and forced 16 turnovers to BC's 9, highlighting the positives for the defense on a night wher Marist was able to shoot 47.4% - an identical percentage to BC, but from far fewer looks - 18-for-38, compared to BC's 27-for-57.
So that's about that. BC was expected to win the game by about 14, and they won by 18. They did about what was expected of them. The game was nothing to write home about. At this point in the development of BC basketball, that's progress. It's on to Providence now, a rivalry clash on Friday night at Conte Forum against a pretty good team.