Breaking Down BC’s 35-Minute Attempt To Upset No. 19 Virginia

January 27, 2012

By Stephen Sikora

If one were to simply look at the final score of Boston College’s 66-49 loss to No. 19 Virginia, he or she might conclude that it was more of the same for the Eagles. After all, tonight’s defeat puts BC’s losing streak at three, all of them by double digits. However, this one was different. BC played solid basketball for the vast majority of the game and showed improved maturity and skill, as the young team gave a glimpse of how successful they can be. Here’s what transpired:  

Keeping it Close … For Awhile

The Eagles came out hot at the onset, outscoring the Virginia 7-2 during the first few minutes of the game. Although the Cavaliers ended the first half up by eight, at the time it was their largest lead of the game. In the second half it looked as if Virginia could put the game out of reach after extending its lead to 11. But the Eagles were resilient, and slowly cut into the Cavalier lead. A three by Danny Rubin with 10:29 left tied the game at 44. For the next six minutes there wasn’t much scoring at either end, and with 4:14 left Virginia was up by six. Unfortunately that’s as close as the Eagles would get, as Virginia used a 22-3 run to put the game away.  

Clifford and Anderson Deliver

Dennis Clifford and Ryan Anderson, BC’s two interior players, each had great games for the Eagles tonight. The Cavaliers made it a point to double Clifford in the post, a number of times immediately after he received the ball. He was ready for the double team, showing a composed passing touch by finding open teammates on the perimeter. Additionally, his shot looked much better than it had in recent games. Against NC State Clifford had a couple of hook shots blocked, as head coach Steve Donahue noted that sometimes his spacing wasn’t ideal. But tonight, when Clifford had good position he executed his shot well and connected. The times he wasn’t located as well, he either passed the ball or dribbled out for space. 

Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson started the game on fire, scoring nine of BC’s first 11 points, the last two coming on a fantastic spin move in the lane for a layup. He also demonstrated prowess on the defensive end, picking up double digit rebounds and giving great energy. Although he didn’t keep up the offense for the rest of the game, as Virginia focused on him more closely, he certainly showed why he was the Gatorade California Player of the Year in 2011. When both Clifford and Anderson are on, BC can compete with the upper-tier teams of the ACC. 

Improved Offensive Movement

For most of the night the Eagles were aggressive in the lane. Rather than possessions where the ball stayed stagnant around the three-point line, the team showed great movement with and without the ball. This helped create opportunities for open passes and kick outs, to which the Eagles knocked down multiple shots. Additionally, there were a number of drives in the lane for BC, including great plays by Jordan Daniels and Lonnie Jackson, both of whom had great poise throughout the night. Matt Humphrey also had a solid game, improving on his three point shooting by picking his spots much better than in the past. He finished 2-of-4 from downtown.

Defensive Efficiency

On the defensive side, the Eagles contained the Cavaliers for most of the game. Donahue used a number of different looks aimed at stopping the opposing offense, which included a 2-3 zone, man to man, and a press at times. The combination worked out well, as BC didn’t allow many easy opportunities. For the most part Virginia’s shots were contested, and a number of its scoring plays were registered facing a stiff BC defense. The Eagles showed great energy throughout entire possessions, and save for the last few minutes, their double teams were effective.

Forward Mike Scott led the Cavaliers with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, though the majority of those shots were well defended by the Eagles, especially Clifford. He recorded two blocked shots against Scott, the senior who ESPN’s color commentator called “the best inside player in the ACC.” In addition, Daniels and Gabe Moton did a nice job of defending opposing point guard Jontel Evans. Coming into the game, Evans had only attempted nine threes the whole season. Both players tonight gave him the three-point shot and stayed in front of him to cut down on his passing lane. The strategy worked, as Evans didn’t attempt a three all night.

Outlook

For the first 35 minutes tonight, BC had a realistic chance to win against a nationally ranked opponent on the road. And while they didn’t finish strong, this will be a great learning experience for the Eagles. In the future when BC’s playing a close game on the road, they’ll be more confident knowing that they’ve been there before.

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