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Coach's Corner: Providence 66 BC 51

X's and O's are not always what it is all about. How culture or lack of it, cost the Eagles against the Friars.

BC needs to flex some muscle
BC needs to flex some muscle
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Our basketball analyst "Coach" John Fidler breaks down BC's performance versus Providence.

When people talk with a coach, suddenly the questions tend to go from "he stinks, why are you playing him", to "you shouldn't shoot so many three pointers" or in football, "why do you run the ball on first and second down all the time" (wink).

Many nights though games are decided beyond the X's and the O's, but rather by the culture you have defined in your program and how the your players perform based on those cultural decrees.  Ultimately, I thought Wednesday night's game against Providence came down to culture or lack of established culture and that is what cost BC a win or got PC a win dependent on your viewpoint.

Clearly, BC came into the game at the Providence Civic Center with a number of factors working against them.  With six or more players impacted by the Chipotle Norovirus issue, the Eagles limped in to face a Friar team that although missing a key player of their own in Ryan Fazekas, still trotted out two players in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil who were better than any individual player the Eagles had, even when healthy. Early on it showed.

After a feel out process to the first TV timeout, the Friars exerted their will on the Eagles.  PC dictated at both ends of the floor, pressuring the basketball, taking the Eagles out of their offense and scoring at will in the paint, both via Dunn's dribble penetration and Bentil's post play.  A 4-2 deficit, turned into a 21-4 deficit at the 10:30 mark in the first half and the Eagles were on the ropes.

Then the hoop Gods smiled on the Eagles. First Dunn got sick and with him out of the equation, PC lost their primary (and the more the game went on became obvious, their only real) ballhandler, certainly one who could create and make the players around him better.  As former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg would say, it's a great thing to play with two point guards, they make everyone that much better.  Both BC and PC knew that issue last night when neither had a single true point on the floor.

Then Bentil twisted his ankle and left as well and with him went the Friars' best post scorer and rebounder.

The game almost immediately evened out.  BC got to the half down 14 (37-23) and then made a run, holding PC to just two points over a seven minute period early in the second half.  Key to this run were the BC defense, which forced the suddenly fragile Friar guards into nine turnovers in the first nine minutes of the second half, as the Eagles cut the deficit to 43-39.

BC's defense or maybe more correctly, the PC guards became a side to side attack (something we've seen a lot of this year from the Eagles) and without the dribble penetration of Dunn and the finishing ability of Bentil, the Friar offense went stale.  BC was able to capitalize to the tune of 19 points off those turnovers.

Coach Jim Christian employed some 3/4 court pressure that not only forced the Friars to run time off the shot clock, but added to the burden felt by their guards.

At 43-39, the TV cameras panned to Friar boss Ed Cooley.  I've been there, I know that look.  It was a case that the PC head coach had very little to turn to, there weren't a whole lot of places to look for answers, so he turned to the intangible that ultimately won them the game, their culture which centers on their effort and intensity.

The game then turned into not so much about how one team executed against the other, but simply who wanted it more.  The Friars turned up the intensity on the defensive end, pounded the offensive and defensive glass (PC finished with 15 offensive rebounds) and just outfought the Eagles.  6'8 sophomore forward Rodney Bullock was the main cog in the PC wheel, scoring seven of the ten Friar baskets in the second half when neither Dunn nor Bentil returned.

How much of the fact that BC got outworked over that final 11:18 of the game, outscored 23-8, was a result of the food poisoning is debatable.  The Eagles didn't look fatigued, but none of us have any idea as to how great an impact that had on the result.  I will say that Matt Milon struggled, forcing a contested three, and backing that with a turnover on the next possession and a missed box out which turned into Friar points after that.  Eli Carter, as we've seen, can take a lot of shots and be streaky and BC needed him and he wasn't there (5-18 FG).  On the flip side though, Darryl Hicks looked energized and provided an intensity and quickness that we haven't seen this season.

What I do know happened though is that while PC turned the dial up, BC ratcheted it down.  Christian got out of his three quarter court pressure and BC struggled to score.  Why, once again debatable.

My big takeaways from this game:

  • From a cultural perspective, the BC program needs to get where the PC program currently is.  The Friars were able to reach deep inside to will themselves to a victory when nothing was going right.  This wasn't about who played or what offense or defense was run, this was simply about who wanted it more.  For the final time, was that based on illness, just not sure.  This program though has not had a team with an edge since the days of Jared Dudley, Tyrese Rice, etc. going back to 2005-06 and needs to get that competitive fight they saw against them last night to maximize what they are capable of being.  Part of that is due to the virtual complete turnover of the roster, there is no one to maintain the culture, because there are few there that have built it.  This is the first challenge for Christian or any coach of any team at any level, to make maximum effort, the minimum requirement.
  • This was a game of men (PC) vs boys (BC) and to make matters worse, sick boys at that.  There was a noticeable physical difference in the two teams, particularly with Dunn and Bentil on the floor.  PC was just much stronger all around and that is something the Eagles will continue to face as they get into ACC play and at this point aren't equipped to handle.
  • The loss of Dunn and Bentil turned this into a winnable game for BC, despite the food poisoning issue and despite falling behind by 14 at the half.
  • Effort can be measured.  Things like rebounding (PC +9), offensive rebounding (PC +12 and got over 40% of their missed shots back), points in the paint (PC +8) and then on the other side for BC plus on the steals side (albeit just +1) and points off turnovers (BC +5) but that needed to be much greater with Dunn out of the game to produce a victory.