Boston College came out strong on Sunday jumping out to 32-24 halftime lead, only to be thoroughly outplayed by UMass in the second half. The Eagles had an extremely difficult time defending the post against the Minutemen which resulted in foul after foul, sending Amherst to the line a total of 46 times. Below are three ups and three downs that I was able to take from the game.
1) Strong start
One of the weaknesses that I pointed out after Friday night's win against UNH was the slow start the Eagles got off to. Well, Jim Christian must have taken a look at my article as BC came out on fire in the first half. They were playing solid defense, forcing turnovers, making the extra pass, and getting to the basket with relative ease. Heck, they even forced a 5 second call on a UMass inbound play, a clear sign that Steve Donahue is no longer the head coach. A 14-0 Boston College run midway through the first half gave the Eagles their largest lead of the game at 13, unfortunately they were not able to sustain their hot start and subsequently fell apart in the second half. If we could have somehow taken the first half from this game and combine it with the second half of the UNH game, we're looking at a win and our first 2-0 start in 5 years.
2) Olivier Hanlan's aggressiveness
Hanlan came out strong on Sunday, bullying his way into the paint and finding the open man when he realized he didn't have anything. He is by far the heart and soul of this Eagles team and there is a significant lack of play-making ability when he is on the bench. Unfortunately Hanlan wasn't able to carry the team in the second half, but that has more to do with a lack of depth for the Eagles and the overall improvement of play by the Minutemen. Bottom line, Olivier played his heart out, hustling on both ends of the court for almost the entire 40 minutes. Jim Christian is going to have to find someone to step up and give OH a breather every now and then as fatigue hit him hard on Sunday.
3) Team Defense
While we may have lost the game, I was impressed with our overall team defense. The Eagles did a nice job of helping along the baseline and doubling down on Cady Lalanne when he received the ball in the post. The Eagles also did a good job of forcing turnovers in the first half, with Dimitri Batten playing solid perimeter defense throughout the game. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they were a victim to sub-par refereeing as the men in stripes blew the whistle on anything that looked remotely close to contact. After all was said and done BC had tallied up 31 personal fouls. LET THE PLAYERS PLAY!
1) Maxie Esho and Cady Lalanne
While the performances from these two big men would be considered "UPs" for any UMass faithful, they can certainly be considered downs for Jim Christian and the rest of the Eagles. BC might have done a nice job on Lalanne in terms of defending him, but his sheer length and shot-blocking ability did a number on any Eagle who tried to take the ball to the rack. Lalanne tallied a total of 5 blocks and altered at least 5 more, making it difficult for any BC player not named Olivier Hanlan to shoot over his long frame. Maxie Esho, on the other hand, totally dominated on the offensive side of the ball and even picked up 2 blocks of his own. Esho finished the game with 21 points on 7-13 shooting which included a couple of and-one's and two momentum shifting dunks in the second half. The Eagles simply had no answer for Esho who dominated the game from start to finish. Well played Maxie.
Now I don't want it to sound like I'm making excuses...but come on, these refs were soft. The Eagles managed to pick up 4 fouls in the first 2 minutes of the game, 2 of which were on Dennis Clifford, which sent him to the bench for the rest of the first half. As I mentioned above, all the whistle-blowing resulted in 31 personal fouls for the Eagles and helped UMass get to the line a ridiculous 46 times. Thankfully the Minutemen had a tough time from the charity stripe, missing 15 shots, or the score could have looked a lot worse.
3) Overall shooting
One of my weaknesses for the UNH game was the Eagles' ability to shoot the three. While they may have done a little better on Sunday, improving from 5.3% (1-19) to 23.8% (5-21), it's still not good enough and won't get the job done in the ACC. With limited play makers, the Eagles are really going to need to start capitalizing from deep. Hopefully Lonnie Jackson returns soon. It wasn't just the three-pointers that were ugly on Sunday as BC had trouble making shots from anywhere on the floor. Layups were missed (thanks in large part to Lalanne), mid-range jumpers were bricked off the rim, and we even struggled from the free throw line much like our opponent. Ultimately the Eagles shot an ugly 35.1% from the field and only made 17-27 free throw attempts, good for 63%.
After the first weekend of the season, I have to say that I am pleased. While Sunday's loss stings, it could have been a lot worse. A team that has been bitten by the injury bug found a way to hang in there with a superior UMass squad and compete for 40 minutes. Most people wouldn't have been surprised if the Eagles came out 0-2 with a 25 point loss to the Minutemen, so considering everything I would say we are off to a decent start. We even got a solid contribution from John Carney off the bench, keeping working big fella. Here's to Lonnie, Idy Diallo, and K.C. Caudill getting healthy and getting back on the court. Lord knows we need them.
Also, I want to give a shout out to my buddy Christian Oliveria who is a freshman over at Amworst. He all but guaranteed a win for his Minutemen and they delivered. Congrats man.