Boston College Basketball picked up a much-needed win against Notre Dame to get back on track this week. With UNC looming on Saturday, let’s get right to it:
- On-ball defense:
I wrote last week about BC’s suffering defense, especially on the perimeter. The team must have heard me, because if there was ever a “gritty, not pretty” win it was over Notre Dame. At times, especially in the first half, where the Eagles looked downright ugly. Though their record is far from great, the Irish have played a lot of these mucked-up, ugly games – they held all of Duke, UVA, NC State, Georgia Tech and FSU to under 70 points. Though they only emerged with wins over UVA (by 22 points!) and Georgia Tech, they have some promising young guys (especially Markus Burton) and it looked like they were going to do just enough to get the dub over the Eagles. Down 7 after scoring only 29 points in the first half, it was a determined effort from the Eagles that let them back into the game. One of, if not the most critical reasons behind the turnaround was the perimeter defense and I want to highlight Zackery and Kelley in particular. They primarily matched up with Burton, who is by far the best shot creator and maker on the Irish. In the second half, they pretty much shut him down. Burton connected on only one of five attempts in the second half, along with two FTs and seven turnovers. He was clamped, and with him a nonfactor in the second half the Eagles came roaring back. Zackery led the Eagles with a 20-piece, including some in-rhythm midrangers, some crafty work with a defender on his hip, and just smart basketball. When he actually looks to score the basketball instead of jumping into his defender to draw fouls, he just is so much more effective. He will likely see a lot of RJ Davis this weekend, so he will need to be at his best again.
- Post, effective when it matters most:
Quinten Post is the Eagles’ best player, but he has not been his dominant self of late. He went scoreless and fouled out in a terrible performance against Syracuse, before it came out that he was battling the flu and missed the Clemson game as a result. Though he came back into the lineup against ND, for about 35 minutes it looked like another frustrating night for the big man. He just wasn’t finishing, between a couple gimme layups and his trademark top-of-the-key trey. In the second half, he must have missed three straight 3s as the Eagles struggled to take the lead back. With about five minutes to go, however, he flipped the switch. With the Irish up six and time trickling away, he finally found his jumper. After canning a triple (you could see the relief on his face), he then splashed another jumper and a second three on consecutive possessions, dominating when it mattered most and giving the Eagles the lead. He hit the would-be dagger, too, with less than a minute on the clock – yet another buried three (the Eagles almost lost themselves the game needlessly with a series of stupid plays in the final 30 seconds, but Post’s 3 gave them the lead for good). Those five minutes are the Post that this team desperately needs. Defensively, his size and improving shot blocking are focal points; one needs to only look at Clemson to see what happens when he’s missing. As important as he is defensively, though, this offense is just a different animal when he’s at his best. Outside of Post, Claudell Harris is the best shot creator on the Eagles. He was a putrid 1-13 from the floor last night; when both he and Post aren’t clicking the offense just goes cold. Zackery can only run so many isos down low, Kelley and Hand can’t consistently get to the rim yet, and Madsen is most effective catching and shooting. When Post is scoring at will, he orchestrates a constant flow of slashers and cutters – the Eagles love putting the ball in Post’s hands, then use him as a screener for Claudell and Zackery cutting to the basket. Post’s man is in a no win-situation. He can sag off Post, helping on the cutter but freeing space for Post to shoot or drive to the rim. If the defender stays home, Claudell can cook in the midrange with a step on his defender (though he couldn’t hit anything last night, he must have gotten his defender in the air at least 3-4 times) or Zackery can bully down low. Madsen and Hand are lurking on the elbow, with Madsen shooting at a wild 49% 3-point clip and Hand a workable 34.5% (if he took smarter shots instead of chucking whatever he touches, I have confidence that number would skyrocket). Ultimately, though, it works. But it all starts with Post.
- Fan attendance.
For a Monday night right before classes start, packing 6,348 people into Conte is a great start to the semester. Conte was definitely not full, but the student section was lively and as the Eagles stormed back in the second half the place definitely got loud. Grant made sure to applaud the crowd, saying that the team definitely felt the energy and fed off of it. Sitting at 2-4 in the ACC, this team needs some signature wins quickly and there’s no better opportunity than UNC on Saturday. The game was announced as a sellout during the ND contest; it should be a great environment. Now the product needs to continue to improve to match the attendance.