20th century American Novelist James Baldwin is the mind behind one of my favorite quotes: "Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by those doing it."
Many thought the Boston College basketball team wouldn't find a way to win a game in the ACC this season, but yesterday the Eagles proved the naysayers wrong, picking up that elusive first win by beating Georgia Tech 64-62 in Atlanta.
Although Georgia Tech hadn't won a game in conference either, playing on the road and without your only seasoned (notice I didn't say legitimate) post presence, Dennis Clifford, this was going to be a difficult game to win but the Eagles still found a way to do so.
It wasn't pretty and no, this game will never wind up in our video archives series, but it was a win BC needed against a team in a very similar position and they got it.
Let's take a look at how.
There will be a scant few times during a basketball season where Hanlan doesn't wind up on either side of this up/down equation. For BC to win against ACC level competition, Hanlan is going to have to play a large role and yesterday he did his part better than he has all season.
Hanlan had an extremely efficient game, going 9-18 from the field and 4-5 from three and at the free throw line to wind up with a season high 25 points. He was also the Eagles' leading defensive rebounder for the game with six. He had just two assists and finished with six turnovers (the low light of his day was some sloppy ball handling against less than stellar defenders), but he did not force the game and looked completely comfortable and in charge throughout.
His backdoor cut and finish off the pass from Will Magarity with 1:10 left the Eagles up 61-59 after GT had come from seven down with 3:58 left to tie the game.
Every night Hanlan is BC's best and most important player on the floor; yesterday afternoon, he was the best player from either side.
This was his best overall performance since the win at home over Providence, going all the way back to December 5, where his stat line was eerily similar. Not coincidentally, it was BC's last win over a team from a power conference.
I've been very critical of Magarity's play throughout the season and, I believe, rightly so. He is has been a walking foul averaging over 7 1/2 fouls per 40 minutes of floor time and his lack of physical strength has hurt him defensively, rebounding and finishing scoring chances in traffic among those bigger and stronger bodies. He has shown the ability to knock down the perimeter jump shot and has been a very effective high post passer, even under duress, so the ball skills have been there.
Yesterday, spelling the ill Dennis Clifford, we got the best game of Magarity's career. He was an efficient 4-6 from the floor including 3-3 in the paint for nine points and five rebounds, including three of the seven BC got on the offensive glass. Although he wound up with four fouls and was the beneficiary of Brian Gregory's decision not to pound the ball inside, he battled hard for position against the Tech bigs and actually outscored the combo of Charles Mitchell and Demarco Cox (9-6).
As mentioned in the section on Olivier Hanlan, the backdoor basket that put the Eagles up for good with 1:10 left, was delivered off a Magarity pass and is something that not many big men can provide.
Three Point Shooting
The Eagles didn't light it up from outside, but 9-20 is a major step forward, at least for a game. BC was 5-8 in the second half, which attributed greatly to a 59% overall 2nd half shooting percentage. As we learned in the Virginia game, if you can't shoot from the perimeter, the driving lanes simply get smaller as the defense constricts and it would be a mistake to think that didn't help the overall shooting effort.
As further proof of this, BC was able to outscore Tech 28-24 in the paint for the game, despite the margin for second chance points tilting 15-7 in favor of the Jackets.
The "Senior from Germany," as Wes Durham called him five or ten times yesterday, had another strong game. He's now been in double digits in four of his last five and is averaging almost 14 points and shooting 65% from the floor in those four games. Heckmann clearly is a momentum player, one who can get himself in a funk, but who also—as we have seen in several games this year and throughout his career—can take over a game at times.
I thought yesterday he did a very nice job of recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of the defenders he had covering him and used those great ball fakes to take it strong to the basket.
Of course, Magarity was inserted for Clifford in the starting lineup and that is going to impact the performance of the bench, but BC was outscored 27-5 by the Tech bench. The Eagle reserves logged 43 minutes netting just 5 points and 6 rebounds from Odio, Cain Carney and Owens.
It's not something we haven't seen before, or didn't think we would see again, particularly not yesterday. Georgia Tech came into the game a plus 9 rebounding margin for the year, while BC was just above even. That the Jackets beat BC on the glass 35-27 (-8) and similar to what happened against Syracuse were able to get 41% of their missed shots back which lead to the 15-7 second chance points, this didn't hurt the Eagles nearly the way it could have or should have. Most of that can be attributed to Tech's inability to finish their second shot opportunities, but BC got away with what should have hurt them most.
He's been up and down a bit more than one might hope to see out of a fifth year senior and yesterday was one of those down days. Outside the Syracuse game, he's now gone eight of the last nine not reaching double figures. Clearly he does not get the touches or shot opportunities that Brown or Hanlan get, but BC is so perimeter-oriented that he does need to do better than just a basket.
Interestingly, at Old Dominion he took 2x more shots per game than he is taking this year, but of course didn't have an all ACC guard to play off of. His shooting percentage overall is way up from those Monarch days, over 47% for the season as opposed to the upper 30s he shot for the past two seasons. There is something there: he's got a toughness defensively and is extremely competitive, but finding his role in the Eagle offense has been a bit of a challenge.
A comment that had a lot to do with the game, but little to do with BC, had to do with the Tech coaching strategy yesterday. I am at a loss to understand why, with a team that shoots so poorly, the Jackets wouldn't have pounded the ball inside to bigger, stronger players with BC so limited inside and further weakened with the loss of Dennis Clifford. The few times they tried, it was a mismatch. Cox and Mitchell had only seven shots between them...bewildering.
We mentioned after the Syracuse game that there were not a lot of winnable games left on the slate. Getting one yesterday was key and although no one will expect much this Wednesday (weather permitting) against Louisville, the game at Clemson has a lot of the same characteristics we saw yesterday and should provide the Eagles a fighting chance to stick another one in the win column.