Boston College jumped out to a 13-point halftime lead and led by as much as 22 early in the second half before holding on to win its second straight ACC game 66-59 at Cassell Coliseum against Virginia Tech. The story of this game, as it was on last Saturday against NC State, was the Eagle offensive execution in the opening half.
The Eagles raised their record to 11-18 and 3-14 in the conference heading home for Senior Day and a matchup with Danny Manning and #TheRivalry.
Interesting game in that the Eagles played so well for a half and then so mediocre (or worse) in the second half. Certainly gives us something to dissect and analyze!
Dimitri Batten - The Offensive
It was great to see Batten break out of his offensive funk. Entering the game, he had registered only two double-digit performances since December and despite the toughness and effort, there was every reason to think he needed to sit. On Wednesday night though, Batten provided an offensive spark that once again removed the total burden from Olivier Hanlan to score.
It didn't start well. Batten had a turnover and missed a dunk, but then he went off. 7-9 from the floor, including 4-5 from three for a team-high 18 points. The threes really stick out, but the efficiency with which he played offensively was a key. Batten shouldn't be a 12-15 shot per night guy, but he did a good job tonight, maximizing those touches.
First half offensive execution
Against NC State, it was all about the ball going through the hoop. Last night, it was about fabulous first half offensive execution.
The Eagles, at least against straight man to man defense, are very much in a flow. In the first half, they wasted no time, getting immediately into their offense and have developed a great understanding of what they are looking for in those sets. In short, they are playing with confidence and like a senior-laden team should play.
It was curious to see the two teams, with very similar offensive philosophies play against each other and seemingly switch uniforms at halftime. That said...
I am so impressed by what this staff has gotten out of this team offensively and they continue to add small, simple pieces to the mix in the form of quick hitters out of similar offensive sets that have resulted in easy baskets. Also, not sure if anyone has noticed, but in the past few games, they have tried to get the ball to Dennis Clifford on the game's first possession, a la Bill Cartwright in the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls days.
BC was credited with just 7 fast break points, all in the first half, but the Eagles were extremely effective for the first 25 minutes of the game in early offense. By that I mean not only fast break basketball, but quickly getting into their offensive sets and maximizing the shot clock, regardless of the situation.
Spread the wealth - part II
For the second game in a row, this was more than just the Brown and Hanlan show. The Eagles put four in double figures against the Hokies, with Batten (18), Hanlan (15 - on an amazingly quiet 13 FG attempts), Aaron Brown (13) and Clifford (10). Now obviously, Virginia Tech shouldn't be confused with Virginia, but even as the end of the season approaches, this is a great trend to see.
Identifying and executing against changing defenses
I was a bit disappointed that Malcolm Huckaby didn't pick this up on the TV broadcast, but the Eagles' staleness in the second half can be directly attributed to the changing defenses that Virginia Tech threw their way.
Buzz Williams did what we have seen Jim Christian do during the season and show zone, before switching to man within the possession. The zone slowed the Eagles down, because they had to identify it. The man, which I really would have to go back and watch to figure out what the trigger was to switch to it, caused the Eagles to stand around and forced BC into 10 second half turnovers and just 33% shooting in the second half, after another scorching 63% in the first.
Defending underneath out of bounds plays
I'm actually surprised this hasn't happened more often, but as the announce team mentioned, the Eagles gave up three baskets, nearly a fourth, on underneath out of bounds plays. One of the things I haven't figured out all year is why Dennis Clifford plays head up on the ball the way he does in those situations.
I have no problem with him covering the ball, but angle it to protect the basket. The only thing that should happen with him on the ball is that it's passed out very deep or to the ball side corner, but never under the basket.
This is clearly the way this is taught, I just don't know why.
Get out the Head and Shoulders shampoo again...lather, rinse, repeat. The only team worse than BC in the ACC rebounding is Virginia Tech...but alas, the Hokies were +2 last night against the Eagles. This is from a team that was MINUS 7 per game on the year (BC was minus 1.9). The Eagles gave up 8 offensive rebounds and the vast majority of those were team rebounds, where a missed shot was knocked out of bounds and was awarded to VT.
BC's two offensive rebounds against a team that played really no legit big man was pretty embarrassing.
There may have been an Honorable Mention negative too...but seeing how Dimitri Batten played so well offensively, we won't bring up his defense on Adam Smith...oops.
The road to the NCAA tournament continues on Saturday, when BC looks to make the Demon Deacons their third straight victim.
Hey, don't let the facts get in the way of a great story.