Gritty BC Effort Downs Providence

By Greg Joyce, Heights Senior Staff

On a day when Boston College was hurting in size, the battle in the paint is what earned the Eagles the win. Ryan Anderson turned in a gutsy performance with 17 second-half points to give BC a 71-68 win over Providence at Conte Forum.

Freshmen Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon both played the entire game and contributed in major ways, as Hanlan recorded his first collegiate double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Rahon shut down the Friars on the defensive end.

The game featured 14 lead changes throughout the 40 minutes, and in the end, the Eagles came out on top.

“I thought it was a well-played game,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “Neither team could shake the other team.”

It was BC that finally shook off the Friars, as a 3-pointer from Patrick Heckmann with 5:59 remaining gave the Eagles a 59-56 lead that they would never relinquish.

BC hit seven 3-pointers on the day, but it was the play in the key that gave the Eagles the edge over Providence. With time winding down and the Friars hanging around, Rahon found Anderson underneath the basket twice in the final minutes to keep BC ahead.

“[Providence] had a lot of size on their team and with Dennis being hurt and Andrew Van Nest being out with a concussion, I just took it upon myself to be the force in the paint for us tonight,” Anderson said.

The second play from Rahon to Anderson came with the shot clock in its final seconds, as Rahon made something out of a broken play to find his big man for two points.

“I thought it was incredible—end of the shot clock, staying poised, finding [Anderson] in a tight spot and Ryan’s so good at finishing those with his hands,” Donahue said.

Donahue said he trusted Rahon more than anyone else in that situation to handle the ball, and his guard came through for him.

“I just have so much respect for Joe and his understanding of the game,” Donahue said. “He’s just a winner. You gotta make game-winning plays. Someone’s going to have to step up and stop him because he doesn’t lose his poise. He stays with it.”

The Eagles committed a season-low eight turnovers, as taking care of the ball down the stretch allowed them to hold off Providence in the waning minutes.

“It’s huge for us every game,” Donahue said of the low turnovers. “We’re not necessarily going to be the most athletic and physical team, so we got to be great with the basketball. We were great with the ball today. I don’t think there was any bad decision.

“We have to get less than 10 turnovers [per game] in this league if we’re going to be competitive this year.”

Dennis Clifford returned to action for the first time since Nov. 28 in limited playing minutes, still battling an ankle injury and sore knees. But the big man contributed four points and five rebounds, and more importantly, was a force on the defensive end for BC.

“I think a big lift we got was from Dennis,” Donahue said. “I know it doesn’t show too much, but he hasn’t played basketball, literally—except for a couple of games—in two months. He’s not healthy. He’s hurting. His knees are killing him. And his ankle’s not good. But he thought he could help us bang some bodies and I thought he did a great job.”

Hanlan’s 12 rebounds were a career-high for him, and his effort in the paint helped Anderson control Providence’s forwards. Rahon guarded LaDontae Henton—who came in averaging 16.6 points per game—and held him to just four points on the day. The play of the guards helped Anderson slow down the Friars down low, especially when Clifford wasn’t in the game.

“I thought a lot of the guards came in and helped me out on the rebounds,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how many Olivier and Joe had but they were really in there battling for a lot of rebounds for us. I thought it was a team effort of combating their size and strength inside. That was the key to the game.”

The win got the Eagles above .500 going into their small Christmas break, and was a big step forward in the team’s progression. Providence resembles the kind of team that BC will be facing in a lot of its ACC competition, and a win against the Friars did a lot for the young squad’s confidence.

“To pull [the win] out,” Anderson said, “is just big for our program moving forward to continue to grow as a team.”

BC Squeaks By Auburn

By Chris Marino, Assoc. Sports Editor

On Wednesday, the Boston College men’s basketball team pulled off a close 50-49 victory against the Auburn Tigers at Conte Forum. The Eagles were led by their freshman backcourt of Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon, while scoring leader Ryan Anderson struggled to overcome a lingering foot injury. Hanlan ended with a game-high 19 points, while Rahon was equally as pivotal to the outcome with 15 points. While the home squad led by as much as eight in the second half, the contest proved to be a battle of wills until the final buzzer.

“At the team meeting yesterday, we talked the things that winning teams do,” Rahon said. “We talked about making tough plays, and giving it for all 40 minutes. Then we all went home last night and watched Butler give it to North Carolina. They played hard. They did all the little things. They battled on the boards. They were able to beat a team that’s more talented than they are. We started texting each other, texting around, saying, ‘That’s how we have to play.’ So we came out here with a bulldog mentality, and hopefully we’re going to keep that for the rest of the year.”

The first half saw Hanlan and Rahon act as the main catalysts behind the BC scoring effort. The squad’s typical scorers—Anderson, Dennis Clifford and Lonnie Jackson—went a combined 0-for-10 from the field, while their freshman teammates combined to go 7-for-13 from the floor and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Eagles struggled to penetrate the lane in the early portion of the game, and were forced to play mostly around the perimeter.

Head coach Steve Donahue was impressed with the pair’s leadership today, and believes that they will continue to contribute to making the offense more effective.

“Our guards had great confidence,” he said. “They have really good basketball IQ. The thing I asked them to do today was manage the game. I think they have the ability to do that for us, and it’s going to keep getting better. We still don’t have an identity sometimes on the offensive end. The ball gets moved around and we wonder why that guy takes a shot. I think everybody occasionally does that. Where’s the flow? Where are our roles? That comes with times and chemistry. These two guys, I just think, are all around basketball players that are going to be terrific in this league.”

Hanlan contributed early, hitting two straight 3-pointers to start the Eagles’ scoring. Rahon added a few outside shots himself, while the rest of the starters were unable to get anything going from the field. Despite a lack of size for Auburn, Clifford only attempted one shot in the half, and looked to pass before shooting on most possessions. Anderson, despite going 0-for-5 and 1-for-4 from the free throw line at the half, finished with six of his seven rebounds.

“I think Ryan had a lot to do with us winning,” Donahue said. “It could’ve been easy for him not to play. Obviously, he was nowhere near 100 percent, but he competed, and got seven rebounds. We just don’t have the depth to do that and win this game. I know it looks in the box score like he didn’t do much, he’s just not healthy. Obviously foul shots and not shooting well from the field, but seven rebounds in limited minutes is huge in a game like this.”

The half saw 12 lead changes, but it appeared that the Eagles would finish on top after Rahon drilled a three from the corner to give his team the 22-19 advantage and then followed with a midrange jumper to extend the lead. With one second left, however, the Tigers’ Frankie Sullivan sank a 3-pointer to give his team the 26-25 halftime lead. The Eagles finished the half shooting 32 percent from the floor, but were 41.7 percent from three-point range. Auburn shot 46 percent, however it was 2-of-7 on 3-pointers.

In the second half, Hanlan continued to control the game with a strong shooting stroke. There were large lulls in the scoring from both sides. With 15 minutes left in the half, Clifford backed his defender in the paint and spun around for the hook shot and put his team up 35-28. The Eagles would not score again for five minutes. The Tigers were stagnant during this period as well, helping BC maintain its lead.

With the minutes winding down, Auburn finally began to mount the comeback. Sullivan proved to be a formidable scoring option against the Eagles. He finished the game with 23 points, including 15 in the second frame. The Tigers got the score to within three, but then Anderson hit two free throws and Hanlan hit a jumper to extend the score to seven. A 3-pointer by Noel Johnson and two successful free throws for Rob Chubb lessened the deficit to two for the visiting squad.

After some more back and forth from both sides, Sullivan went for the three-point shot with his team down by four. Rahon came up too aggressively on his man, and knocked Sullivan down. The shot was good, and Sullivan made the foul shot to tie it up.

“I was mad at myself about that,” Rahon said. “The kid hit a great shot. I just wanted to go down, and either make a play for a teammate or make a play for myself or do something for redemption.”

On the next play, Hanlan drove to the lane and was fouled on the drive. He made the first free throw but missed the second, giving his team the one-point lead. Sullivan let the clock wind down before taking a desperation three, but the shot was no good.

“I thought it was a physical game for sure, and I thought we played hard with the little things that for us are important like outrebounding a team like that,” Donahue said. “I think that’s a typical, physical ACC team that we face. We outrebounded them, and turn it over 12 times. I thought we really competed with them physically. We just weren’t making shots, although I think we had a lot of open ones. For the most part, I thought we really competed.”

The Eagles entered the game with a three-game losing streak in the Charleston Classic, and were attempting to head into the Thanksgiving break with a win. For Donahue and his team, this win was much needed after such a challenging stretch.

“Obviously, it’s tough to go anywhere and lose three straight, but I think we’ve made great progress,” Donahue said. “We’re going to have failure. This isn’t going to be easy, but what I like is that these guys were really determined to try to get a win. Anytime you get a win it’s huge but I just don’t want to get caught up in the results. It’s still not there yet.”

Quick Hits: BC vs. Baylor

By Stephen Sikora, Heights Staff

The Boston College basketball team faced No. 16 Baylor in the Charleston Classic on Thursday afternoon. After leading at the half 43-41, the Eagles were in the game until Baylor pulled away in the final few minutes.

Even in the loss, this was a strong performance by a young team who looks ready to put the nine-win season of last year behind them. Here’s some instant analysis:

Ryan Anderson’s Breakout Continues

After a dominating 29-point, 17-rebound performance in his first game of the season, Ryan Anderson delivered the goods once again on Thursday. He scored 19 points in the first half en route to a 25-point performance on 9-of-16 shooting, adding six rebounds.

Anderson continued to look better finishing at the rim, and showed his versatility by making 2-of-4 3-pointers, including a half court shot at the end of the first half to give BC the lead. He also drove hard in the lane at times to get to the free throw line, where he was a perfect 5-of-5, a nice development after he struggled from the charity stripe last year.

It’s evident that Anderson is the Eagles go-to guy, both on and off the court. Teams will now be equipped with game plans to stop him. If he can work with Donahue to figure ways around these while continuing to develop as a player, there’s no limit on his potential this season.

Checking in on Joe and O

BC’s point guard play is in a much better position this year. Freshman Olivier Hanlan is a capable ball handler and has shown a willingness to drive to the basket to create plays.

Hanlan was 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc to finish with 16 points and six rebounds. He limited the turnovers to three while being an essential part of most plays. If Anderson’s the leader on the floor, Hanlan is second in command and calls out plays for his teammates while handling the ball the majority of the time.

Joe Rahon, on the other hand, didn’t have as great of a game. While his three assists certainly helped the Eagles—which included driving and quality passing of his own—he had a couple of dumb turnovers that could have easily been avoided.

Rahon also shot 1-of-6 from downtown and is now shooting 1-for-11 overall on the year.  Rahon is a capable player that will be crucial to BC’s success in the future, and developing his shot will only help that cause.

Van Nest Emerging

It’s always difficult to project how a transfer player will work out. In the case of Andrew Van Nest, it looks like we have our answer: quite well.

After a solid debut in which he played minutes for Dennis Clifford because of a smaller FIU lineup, Van Nest once again demonstrated that he deserves quality playing time for this BC squad. He shot 5-of-6 from the field, including 2-of-3 from three, and contributed three assists and no turnovers in his 14 minutes of play. The Eagles certainly could use another interior presence after Clifford, and if Van Nest can continue to connect from downtown, he could be a better played than we had ever imagined.

This Year’s Different

At the end of the game, ESPN broadcaster Jay Williams said, “I’m telling you now, BC is going to upset some big-time program in the ACC this year.” The potential the Eagles have shown in their first two games confirm that they’re a much better squad than last year. The three sophomore starters, most notably Anderson, have each made strides from last year. The two freshmen guards are doing a good job executing Donahue’s half court sets, and have been able to get out in transition.

With 7:35 left in the game, BC trailed by one, and though it was outscored 20-11 from that point on, the team has shown it can compete with quality teams. With such a young squad, there’s no question mistakes will happen throughout the year, but the Eagles’ age also leaves room for them to improve substantially this season.