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Five Quick Takes: BC 77 Wake Forest 71

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Eagles grind it out to get to 2-2 in the ACC

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Boston College Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Five quick takes after Boston College raises its ACC record to 2-2 and 11-5 overall with a 77-71 win over Wake Forest before 5,247 at Conte Forum on Saturday afternoon.

The 11 wins is the most that a BC team has had on January 6 since the 2010-11 season when the Eagles notched their 11th win on January 1, 2011.

While the coaching staff would and should never admit it, the victory takes an amount of pressure off the game at North Carolina Tuesday night. It isn’t like the Eagles are garnering a lot of attention nationally and certainly not locally, but by winning they stay in the upper half of the ACC standings with four games already in the bank, more than any team in the conference. The schedule certainly isn’t easy, it also isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the Eagles to continue at or near .500 in the ACC, which keeps them on track for a post season birth.

The Eagles won despite not playing their normal game

Teams create their own styles and approaches to games and generally when the game plays in that manner, those teams are successful. Saturday, in many senses, was an anti-BC game, yet the Eagles still found a way to win, despite not doing it in their normal manner and arguably, not doing it as well as they have in their other ACC contests.

BC shot just 37% from the floor and 32% from three. The overall FG% was the lowest of the entire season, while the 3FG% was slightly below their season average of 36%.

They did though make up for this in other ways, taking and making a season high 26 of 35 from the free throw line. A lot of this was because of the first time in quite sometime BC found themselves ahead enough in the second half to force the opposition to foul, going 17-23 in the second half alone. Those 23 attempts would have tied the 2nd highest number taken in any game this year.

Turnovers, a bug a boo for the past few seasons, were down as well, with BC committing just 7, the second lowest figure all year and less than half of what they have averaged in other ACC games (14.7). Two of those seven game in the first 1:01 of the game and one in the last minute when Wake extended pressure, so during the vast majority of the contest, the Eagles were rock solid with the ball.

BC also blocked a season high nine shots, this from a team that entered averaging just 3.8 blocks per game and doesn’t have any sort of legitimate rim protector. Nik Popovic and Luka Kraljevic (2 each) and Steffon Mitchell (4), made life in the paint tough for the Deacons, who don’t have a real post scoring threat, but harassed the Wake perimeter players by clogging up the middle of the lane for much of the second half in particular.

It was also a game BC won despite getting out rebounded 50-39. This marked just the third time this year (Sacred Heart -13 and Richmond -9) that the Eagles have been on the negative side of that stat. In ACC play, BC had been just 0.3 to the good on the glass, but with that appearing to be this team’s single biggest area for concern going into the season, has been it’s most pleasant surprise.

BC didn’t make all the plays, but they made the big ones

BC didn’t ever have complete control of the game. The 12 point lead at the 4:30 mark remaining in the game, quickly whittled down and the Eagles had to hold off a three point barrage of four in the last 1:05 to hang on to the six point win.

That said, when BC needed to make winning plays, they made them, whether that being making free throws (something that hasn’t been required very often, especially in ACC games), grabbing key defensive rebounds (Ky Bowman continues to excel here, with all ten of his boards being defensive - now at 7.1 per game, a virtually unheard of number for a point guard and his defensive total by far the most on the team), blocking shots (this from non shot blocking team) or knocking down a big shot from an unexpected source (Steffon Mitchell).

This team did the vast majority of little things, particularly when they needed to, that close out games.

Controlling what became too much an equal opportunity offense

Boston College went the first 4:56 of the game before one of the big three of Robinson, Bowman and Chatman, took a shot. It didn’t end there.

Robinson took the next shot 6:12 into the game.

Robinson became the first of the three to score on two free throws, 8:15 in, while Bowman took his first shot and scored his first points on a made three 12:40 into the first half and Chatman taking his first shot, at the 14:54 mark into the game (5:06 left first half).

The fact that when Chatman missed the three, BC trailed only 28-23 is somewhat of a miracle in and of itself, but to let it happen is the real point of discussion.

BC runs some set plays, but in general, runs their 4 out, 1 in continuity and plays within the flow. So shots are taken where they show up by the players who get them. Should the coaching staff though let it go that long or decide to get their better players going by running sets to get them looks.

It isn’t as if the design of what they run isn’t set up to get those three guys looks, but I would be curious what went on in the TV timeouts around that topic.

It doesn’t appear that the staff has put a line in the sand around what shots players should or shouldn’t take. There is a lot of disagreement around that for sure. The player is open and shoots it.

Both coaches say good shot.

The offensive coach sees an open shot and doesn’t want to damage his player’s psyche.

The defensive coach is happy because one of the three main offensive threats isn’t the one shooting it and he will live with letting someone else beat him.

If it’s me, I want to make sure my best players get going early and although not discouraging other players from taking shots, would run sets with the sole purpose of making that happen.

Steffon Mitchell’s offensive adjustment

Mitchell had a solid game all around, but the piece I wanted to focus on was where he got his shots from.

A traditional four out/one in set operates outside of the three point line. Most offenses want to use that line or a step outside of that line to create spacing. With defenses playing off Mitchell and protect the paint and cheat toward the three shooters, Mitchell is going to find himself open.

Mitchell is only 11-40 (27%) from three, but 53% shooting all other shots.

Whether it came from the player directly or in conjunction with the coaching staff, they moved him inside the arc. So although he was just 1-4 vs Wake shooting threes, he was 5-9 with the rest of his field goals, most of which were those 17 foot jumpers.

It may not look like much, but those 2-3 feet will push some shooters outside their range. Mitchell has a pretty funky stroke to start with, so suffice to say that those 2-3 feet at this point are making the difference between makes and misses.

Deacs strategy to wear down BC fails

It’s no secret that BC lacks depth, at least depth that Coach Jim Christian trusts to be on the floor, particularly in ACC contests. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that in the post game presser, both Wake coach Danny Manning and his players called out trying to take advantage of that lack of depth in an effort to win the game.

From the Associated Press write-up of the game:

Jim Christian didn’t directly respond, but he did address the issue:

Jerome Robinson weighed in too

So the whole depth question is on everyone’s mind. Wake’s bench played 60 of the total 200 available minutes (30%) while BC’s bench played 18 minutes (9%).

At this point, it is impressive, but based on Robinson’s and Christian’s comments, it is going to be really interesting to see how this team improves as the season progresses. It is far from uncommon to roll back the amount of practice time as the season wears on to keep your players both physically and mentally fresh. It is just that generally doesn’t happen until February some time, rather than early January.

That doesn’t mean that teams won’t improve or won’t be able to address certain key issues they may be facing, but the Eagles are already into maintenance mode and how that impacts the rest of the season will sure be interesting to see.