Our basketball analyst "Coach" John Fidler breaks down BC's performance versus Delaware.
Ahh, better late than never! As we get set to see the Eagles take on Fordham this evening, let's take a look at the Delaware win.
When last we talked after the Providence game, we tossed aside a lot of the X's and O's and went to the Jimmys and Joes as that game became a lot more about culture, effort and athleticism of an Eagle team against a more established Friar team. Saturday's 69-61 win over the Fighting Blue Hens of Delaware also was less X's and O's and more about the thing that covers up more mistakes in the game of basketball than any other...when the ball goes in the basket.
The fear coming into this one was an aggressive Delaware team that was an excellent rebounding team, had a large margin in getting to and scoring from the free throw line and had a stud scorer in guard Kory Holden. Those are ingredients so far that have caused problems for the Eagles and Saturday night, all three Blue Hen advantages held up their end of the bargain.
Delaware out rebounded BC by 8 (42-34) while allowing BC only two offensive rebounds for the game and no second chance points, while getting eight of their own. The Blue Hens also took 20 free throws to the Eagles 7, four of those seven coming in the last 27 seconds of the game. As for Holden, he had a career high 35 points as he combined with guard Cazmon Hayes to score 52 of the UD 61 points.
So how pray tell did the Eagles win?
When the ball goes in the hole, it masks many evils and so was the case in this game too.
While Delaware was clearly the aggressor and did more than enough to win the game, shooting 28% from the floor while giving up 56% will generally get you beat. The Blue Hens got good looks both from behind the arc and at the rim, created offensive rebound chances and generally did everything you would want to do but just couldn't covert. They got away with it in the first half because of the FT disparity (9-0 points for the Hens).
Did that make the BC defense good? Exceptional? OK? Well tough to say it wasn't good, but I don't think it was great. I thought in the first few minutes of the game, BC came out with as much energy on the defensive end of the floor as I had seen all year long. There was ball pressure, quick, team coordinated movement rather than reaction, both an understanding and a spark that good defensive teams have.
Unfortunately though, there were breakdowns. If you recall in our past few segments we've talked about the fact that the Eagles like to play behind the post defensively and then don't give help to "dig the ball out" in other words, make the post player pass the ball back outside. Against Delaware, the Eagles tried that for the first time all year and the results were not good.
Double teaming the post can come from many different angles. From the opposite post player, from the player whose man passed the ball inside or from an offside defender. Recovery from that can also be done in many different ways. Two would be having the double team man return to his offensive player or to rotate everyone over and have the man doubling the ball go completely opposite to pick up the offensive player furthest away.
And of course there is nothing saying you can't mix up the approach.
The Eagles seemed to prefer the rotation method and this didn't work out well at all. The rotation defender was often out of position and therefore was late to recover, opening up easy shot opportunities. Eventually, BC went away from the philosophy altogether. It will be interesting to see if it comes back, but needless to say if everyone is not on the same page and rotating as a unit, this will fail.
The other glaring issue once again was Eli Carter's defense. We will get to his offensive production in a moment, but Carter was the primary defender on Holden, who of course went off. I do wonder when and if Christian will look a different direction to find that lock down defender, because it is obvious by this point in the year, that it won't be Carter. An interesting alternative could be Garland Owens, who is longer, stronger, athletic, but also stuck needing to provide minutes inside with BC's lack of front court depth.
So while the results defensively look good on paper, the reality is that BC seemed to benefit more from inefficient (I won't call it bad) Delaware offense than anything else.
What about offensively?
In the first half, like they did defensively, the Eagles came out strong. AJ Turner's three, three point field goals, good balance of pass to shoot from Eli Carter and a bit of a presence from Dennis Clifford, had the Eagles up 18-10. But up five with 10:09 left, Clifford was busted open from a stray elbow and didn't return until the second half. BC went cold and a lot of that had to do with Clifford's absence and the Delaware defense.
The Blue Hens showed multiple pressure looks to BC, as well as alternating possessions of 1-2-2 1/4 court zone and man to man. As I've mentioned before, you generally speaking get a good result on the very first possession where you change defensive sets as well as not letting an offense get comfortable against one set. It also causes the offense to expend shot clock time trying to figure out what they are facing. All of that seemed to impact the Eagles.
Shot clocks got short, sloppy passing particularly vs pressure got Delaware some extra possessions.
The second half was a different story.
I heard Malcolm Huckaby mention BC slowing down and looking more comfortable, not sure if I buy that or not, but what I do know is that when BC started to make some perimeter shots, the zone got more and more extended, opening up the high post where Ervins Meznieks in particular looked very comfortable and subsequently inside scoring opportunities. The Eagles had butterflied opened the Hen defense and from there the rest was easy.
That brings us back to Eli Carter. 20 points on 8-15 shooting, 4-9 from three, 10 assists and 8 rebounds with just two turnovers. He's now got 19 assists in the past two games, although I have to be honest, it didn't seem like he had 10 the other night. Once again many of those assists were just through regular ball movement, not trying to force the issue and then guys stepped up and made shots. He was efficient, did it without forcing more than a couple of shots and when your point guard is 5:1 assist to turnover and provides nearly double digit rebounds, very nice night.
All in all a win over a better than originally advertised team, but one that should come with a small asterisk of how it can all change when the ball goes in the basket.