For the first time in a while, BC went 2-0 this week. The Eagles took down an FSU squad without star F Matthew Cleveland by a score of 75-69, before of course the historic 63-48 triumph over #6 UVA. Let’s get to it:
Letting teams back into games. On the back of some lights-out three-point shooting (including 5-5 on treys from Quinten Post), Boston College built a 19-point first half lead against Florida State. FSU could not get any dribble penetration, three-point shots were not falling, and BC was in complete control. But in the waning minutes of the first half, the Eagles let FSU go on a 8-0 run made up entirely of free throws to let FSU right back into the game. It was needless – Caleb Mills was literally the only FSU player with any kind of offensive threat in the half, the Eagles had a comfortable lead, and yet they could not stop fouling, setting up a second half that was far nervier than it should have been. BC faced a similar situation in the last few minutes of the VTech game. Learning how to comfortably close a game is a necessity for any program wishing to make a name for itself. And yes, while, both FSU and @VTech were wins in the end, they could and should have been more comfortable. This is more of a nitpick than a serious issue in Grant’s squad, and I think things will improve as players like Kelley and Aligbe continue to develop. Nevertheless, it is something to notice and watch out for.
DeMarr Langford, finding a way to make an impact. Langford’s struggles have been well-documented this season. He’s battled multiple injuries, and when he has been on the floor he just has not really…contributed to anything. His role on this BC team is very confusing. On one hand, he is clearly one of the best pure athletes on the team, is a seasoned ACC veteran, and we see flashes every once in a while of what he’s capable of (20 pts vs. Miami, for example). On the other hand, he does not really fit into the team’s makeup. Grant tried letting him run the offense as a PG, but I don’t think Langford has the ball-handling or passing chops to thrive in that role. Yet he does not offer enough as a spot-up shooter, because he won’t shoot threes. He isn’t aggressive enough or skilled enough to be a pure scorer, though we know he can fill it up from the midrange.
The Virginia game, I think, gave a clear view of Langford’s best role on the team. Now, an important distinction – this was not Langford at his best, per se, (I think his best is when he’s scoring aggressively like at Miami or like last year’s performances in the ACC tournament, but we’ve barely seen him do that at all this year). I think that his performance against UVA was a snapshot of his best role in consistently contributing to the team, and that was his off-ball cutting and screening actions. Langford scored 12 points on 5-5 shooting, and minus one garbage-time triple, every shot was a high-percentage layup. There’s two in particular I want to highlight: At 13:34 remaining in the first half, Madsen finds Post with an entry pass. Post quickly draws the double-team (something that has been occurring more and more frequently) and gets caught in no-man’s-land along the baseline. Langford and TJ Bickerstaff, spotting up along the perimeter on the opposite side of the court, recognize this. Bickerstaff cuts along the opposite baseline, drawing the UVA defender, and leaving the lane wide open for Langford who cuts from the elbow for an easy deuce.
The second occurs at 13:56 remaining in the second half, Jaeden Zackery brings the ball up the court. Langford darts towards Zackery, acting like he’s going to take a handoff, before quickly ducking under Zackery’s defender, letting Post step up into a pick on DeMarr’s man. Zackery launches an arcing pass that perfectly finds a cutting DeMarr, who finishes the alley-oop layup easily.
Those two actions are pretty repeatable and effective. Sets like those, designed to get easy looks at the rack, have been missing for large chunks of BC’s season as the offense regularly degenerates into passing around the perimeter into a bad shot selection. If DeMarr can refine his cutting, I think it is a huge weapon for this BC offense that offers something so rarely found – consistency in attacking a half-court offense.
Jaeden Zackery, shooting with confidence. Like Langford, Zackery has had his shares of ups and downs this season. While he’s mostly stayed healthy, he’s struggled with confidence. He shot the three-ball at an 47.7% clip on over 3 attempts last season. This season, he has fallen to a 33.3% clip, and he just has not been playing with confidence. I mentioned after the Louisville game that this team is just different when Zackery plays with confidence and hits shots. Post will get his offense and Ashton-Langford will never be afraid of shooting. But when Zackery is aggressively attacking the hoop and splashing threes, he can create offense for a team that needs it. Against UVA, he took over the game in the second half for a few minutes and scored 8-straight BC points.
With BC hanging onto a 8/9 point lead with around 9 minutes to play, Zackery (who was scoreless in the first half) splashed a catch-and-shoot three. It was a good rhythm shot, and it gave Zackery confidence. He followed it up with an aggressive drive, beating his man off the dribble, before absorbing contact at the bucket and finishing anyways. Lastly, he scored BC’s arguably most important bucket of the game – with 7:59 to play, he squared up his man, took one dribble, and launched a three in the defender’s mouth. Splash, BC up 12. His feet weren’t even set; he was just feeling himself and drained the shot. In the post-game conference, Makai told reporters that he has been encouraging Zackery to look for his shot and to be aggressive. When he does, wins follow. I think Zackery gets in his own head, and doubts himself. He’s averaging 10.1 PPG, as compared to 10.3 from last year. He’s scoring the same amount of points, just not at the efficiency he is definitely capable of. The sooner he gets his confidence back and starts hitting at a higher clip, look out. His scoring could develop into a major go-to weapon for BC.
The entire UVA game. It was obviously BC’s biggest win in years, but it was also a perfect “snapshot” of how the Eagles want to play basketball. Tough defense (held UVA to 32% shooting from the floor). Generate turnovers and score in transition (7 steals, with Zackery alone accounting for 3). Let Post cook, and take advantage of his passing from the block (see above about Langford’s cutting, as well as Prince’s thunderous dunk with 6:05 left in the game). Even though Post only had 8 points on 4-14 shooting, he played smart. BC often shoots itself in the foot with silly turnovers and bad offense – that wasn’t the case against UVA. Players were unselfish, moving the basketball and creating good looks that, above all, they made. Of course there was some luck (Makai’s prayer of a three that somehow went in) but BC actually was able to generate open looks at a consistent rate against a Quad 1 team and one of the toughest defenses in the country. The students storming the court was the icing on the cake for one of the best weeks of BC basketball in recent memory. As always, Roll Eags.