Eagles Allow Second Half To Snowball Out Of Control In Fifth-Straight Loss To Harvard
(Graham Beck/Photo Editor)
By Austin Tedesco, Asst. Sports Editor
When head coach Steve Donahue sees his team shoot almost 60 percent from the field, he expects them to win. Despite the apparent offensive efficiency on Tuesday night, the Boston College men’s basketball fell to Harvard 79-63 in the program’s fifth straight loss to the Crimson.
“It’s hard to imagine you shoot 58 percent and lose by 16 pretty handedly,” Donahue said. “There’s a mental toughness side on both sides of the ball that they had and we didn’t. That was, I’m sure, apparent to everybody. In particular, when they pressured us – even though we were scoring we were never understanding and staying poised and confident in our offense. But when we pressured them they just moved like clockwork to the next thing. And like I said it’s kind of mind-boggling to put up those kinds of numbers and lose pretty handedly.”
Ryan Anderson opened the game by scoring 11 of the Eagles first 13 points and it looked as though the Crimson didn’t have an answer for the BC forward, but after the first five minutes his offense began to fade.
“Part of our offense is everyone moves and everyone touches the ball,” said freshman guard Joe Rahon. “Looking back we probably should’ve tried to make more of an effort on the court to try to get it to him when he was hot, but they did do a good job of keying on him. When we were driving they were shading him a little bit more than they did at the start of the game, but looking back we probably should’ve tried to ride him a little more there.”
BC kept the game in reach until the second half, when Harvard went on a run that the Eagles couldn’t match.
“The Achilles’ heel for us is that we allow a play that just happened to snowball to the next play, and it happens in all facets of basketball,” Donahue said. “It’s something that I can’t tell you how many times we talk about it, we harp on it, and we show it to them on film.”
The Harvard players methodically attacked the BC defense on their way to tying their highest point total of the season so far. They made BC defend for the whole shot-clock before finally finding a clean look that consistently fell through the net.
“That’s the two hardest things to do in basketball,” Donahue said. “Is to push it early on and stop them, and then to have the poise and toughness and confidence at the end of the shot clock, and they exploited both ends of that.”
On the offensive end, BC was flustered by the Harvard pressure which broke the rhythm of the motion offense.
“They did a great job of pressuring us and trying to deny easy swing passes,” Rahon said. “I think we didn’t handle it as well as we needed to. We knew they were going to do it. We knew it was coming and we were trying to just get backdoor cuts, get sharp cuts, and move the ball, but they did a good job of taking us out of our rhythm there for a little bit, and we were never really able to turn it around and get over the hump.”
Donahue wouldn’t chalk up the loss to experience, though.
“Can’t say experience anymore,” Donahue said. “I’m done with that. The defense was poor. It’s got to get better. We’ll work at it, but the defense was really poor.”
Although many of the Eagles looked out of sync and worn down during the second half, Donahue said it wasn’t an issue with effort.
“It’s not effort,” Donahue said. “It isn’t. We have to, my staff and myself, get them playing at a certain high level, consistently, all the time, and not missing a beat. It appears at time that it’s effort, but I just think it’s the mental toughness part of it that the guys don’t have the ability to fight through. These guys will continue to get better at it, we’ll continue to bring people into this program that understand it, and we’ll build a culture similar to what we did at Cornell and similar to what Harvard has – but to say they’re not trying? No, they try. They try really hard.”
His players need to be more mentally tough, and he says that will come through failures like this as he continues to build the program.
“I love these guys, as I say all the time,” Donahue said. “I have great confidence that they’ll get it and we’re going to work extremely hard to do it. Unfortunately, and I know I sound like a broken record, but we’re going to have failures here. We’re going to have some extreme frustration, but that to me is the only way you can be successful.”
UPDATE: Steve Addazio Hired As New Head Football Coach
By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor
Steve Addazio will be the next head coach of the Boston College football team, athletic director Brad Bates announced today. Addazio will leave his job as head coach at Temple University to take over for Frank Spaziani, who was fired just nine days ago.
“I’ve only been here six weeks,” Bates said. “I’m looking for a partner who I can be joined at the hip with and really strive for excellence in Boston College athletics. [Addazio] is a key leader in this department.”
Bates interviewed Addazio on two separate occasions before making the hire official today. Addazio will be signed to a six-year contract, though the money was not disclosed.
“The process, as I’ve said all along – I wasn’t really strictly adhering to a timeline,” Bates told The Heights, just after he met with the team to announce the hire. “We had to make sure we got a perfect fit. The process was meticulous and deliberate enough that there’s no question in my mind we were able to accomplish that.”
Bates met with the media on Tuesday night to further discuss the hiring.
“I really believe that Steve Addazio is a great coach who is a great fit for Boston College right now,” Bates said.
Since he met with the players nine days ago and talked about what they wanted in a new head coach, Bates knew that he needed to hire a coach the players could build a strong relationship with.
“Everything in Steve’s background demonstrates that he’s going to create a family culture in the program that’s a team,” Bates said.
Secondly, the team wanted a coach who brought great passion to the locker room and the field, and Bates said he found exactly that in Addazio.
“You’ll see [Addazio] has incredible passion and energy,” Bates said. “He is one of the most energized, passionate people I’ve ever been around. His enthusiasm is contagious. Just sitting around him, you’re going to feel more inspired. So imagine that playing out in a coaching methodology.”
The third factor the team wanted in a coach was someone who was going to win, and Bates said that Addazio “certainly has a background in competitive success and winning.”
During the search process, Bates talked to NFL owners, NFL coaches, commissioners, college head coaches and assistant coaches, executive directors, and more. He reached out to those people he trusted in order to figure out if certain candidates would be a good fit at BC.
At the end of the 2012 season, multiple BC football players came out and said there was a lack of accountability on the team. While the players said the responsibility falls on them to change that, Bates believes that Addazio can help improve that attitude as well.
“He’s got a plan, he’ll be a disciplinarian,” Bates said. “He will be incredibly demanding on and off the field, but at the end of the day, the students are going to know he genuinely and sincerely cares about them.”
Bates told the players in a team meeting at 5 p.m. today, and wanted them to hear the announcement from him first.
“We wanted to make sure the players heard it from us,” Bates said. “We try to do everything we can to make sure they’re not hearing it secondhand. We tried to be as stealth as possible so that they’d hear it from us.”
Though he didn’t want to put words in their mouth, Bates said the players’ reactions “seemed to be a general level of excitement and enthusiasm.”
While the coaching carousel in college football is ongoing and unpredictable, Bates made it seem like he didn’t think Addazio would use BC as a stepping stone in his career.
“This is a guy who grew up in the Northeast and has dreamed of being at Boston College,” Bates said. “He is thrilled to be here and he’s already hitting the ground running. We bounced over a lot of things today in terms of what needs to be prepared and what he’s already getting into.
“Who can predict the future? Is any place a destination anymore? The landscape of college athletics is evolving so quickly, and there’s so many different variables that are involved in how people choose jobs and their longevity. I can’t predict the future completely. But here’s a guy who’s incredibly enthusiastic to be at Boston College.”
Bates said he was looking for a coach who would provide some stability in a program that has had a lot of attrition in recent history.
“Continuity is an incredible cohesive force in building a team,” Bates said. “And so having attrition is disruptive. This team has had a lot of disruption in terms of that continuity.”
Bates said that Addazio has been on his list of potential coaching candidates “for a number of years.”
Addazio compiled a record of 13-11 at Temple in his two years there—9-4 in 2011 (as a member of the MAC) and 4-7 in 2012 (as a member of the Big East). Prior to that, Addazio was the offensive coordinator at Florida in 2009 and 2010, and an assistant at various spots from 2005-2008. While at Florida, Addazio was part of a staff that won the BCS national championship in 2006 and 2008. He served as a mentor for the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow during that time.
Bates first got to know Addazio when he was at Florida, and has been watching and studying him since then. He also got to see Addazio firsthand when Temple faced Miami in a game during the 2011 season.
“I saw him firsthand two years ago because I was at Miami University and Temple was still in the MAC,” Bates said. “I had actually gotten to know him a few years ago when he was at Florida, and I have been really watching him since his work at Florida and [I have] been studying him. So that’s why he was on my shortlist to begin with.”
Former BC assistant coach Ryan Day worked under Addazio at Temple this year, and Bates said that while he didn’t talk to Day directly, he did get Day’s take secondhand.
“I talked to a lot of people, but not directly,” he said. “I didn’t want to do things … there are two ways of approaching it. You can have trusted colleagues make calls so there’s no direct communication, but people that you know and trust, you can call directly. I don’t know Ryan personally, so there was communication that was taking place, but it was secondhand.”
Regarding the current BC coaching staff, Bates said it is something that has yet to be decided in terms of who will stay and who will go.
“All of that’s undecided,” he said. “We’ve certainly had conversations, but nothing that would be definitive at this point. We’ve talked in general terms. He clearly has some ideas of what he wants to do, but he’s going to research the context. He’s going to visit with the team, he’s going to visit with the staff.
“This is a well-connected guy in the football community. He’s going to have an amazing collection of coaches that he can assemble. The key is going to be making sure that he gets a group that has diverse skill sets and experiences so that they compliment one another.”
Speculation had surfaced this morning from outlets including ESPN that the three finalists were Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Ball State head coach Pete Lambo, and the New Orleans Saints’ offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. Addazio’s name had not come up as a candidate throughout the process, and in response to the supposed list of finalists, Bates said it was “interesting.”
“Honestly, I don’t know what the speculation was,” Bates said. “Steve was actually someone on my short list from the beginning. He’s got a tremendous reputation, people speak very highly of him. People that I respect in the industry have enormous regard for his talents and what he’s done in his coaching background.”
Addazio, 53, will be introduced in an official press conference at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the Yawkey Center at BC.
Freshmen Lead Eagles Past Penn State Pressure
(Photo by Graham Beck/Heights Editor)
By Steven Principi, Heights Staff
In its first true road win since the spring of 2011, the Boston College men’s basketball team managed to get back on track after an ugly loss to Bryant with a 73-61 win over Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night in State College.
The Eagles were led by freshmen guards Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon on the offensive end and also received some solid bench play from Lonnie Jackson and Andrew Van Nest.
Both teams started off slow from the field in the first half, but BC managed to find its stroke first. A Jackson three and a dunk by Ryan Anderson opened up a 10-2 lead early on before PSU began making shots. While neither team played at its best on offense, the first half turned into a back and forth affair. Van Nest made a late 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 10-point lead, but the Nittany Lions hit one of their own just before the buzzer and BC went into the break leading 31-24. Head coach Steve Donahue was pleased with his team’s effort in the first half and spoke about the Eagles’ high level of intensity.
“I thought we came out with the right mindset,” Donahue said. “We had the energy level that you need to compete and I think that’s something that hasn’t been consistent with us this year. I thought we did a great job of really coming out and playing hard, playing physical, and playing with great passion.”
The Eagles came out hot in the second half and looked ready to bury PSU. Hanlan, Rahon, and Jackson led the offense for BC, who saw its lead grow as high as 20 points with just over five minutes to play.
The Eagles then fell victim to Penn State’s full court press and struggled to move the ball past half court. Several turnovers and some timely shooting from the Nittany Lions cut the lead to as little as three in just more than two minutes. It was a concerning stretch for the BC, who saw a number of games get out of hand last season due to similar struggles. Donahue said the late run was concerning, but he appreciated the way his team responded.
“I think that was a lot of crazy things that happened all at once,” Donahue said. “Obviously we didn’t handle the pressure, but they made shots and got fouled a lot. I was impressed because when they cut it to three, there were still three minutes left in the game. We were able to regain our composure and go on another run. Obviously we’re disappointed it got that way, but on the road when that happens with three minutes left, you’re concerned you’re not going to recover at all.”
Hanlan came to the rescue for BC. Time after time he managed to get to the basket, driving by Penn State’s defense with ease on consecutive possessions. With the lead at three, Hanlan drove to the basket and made a layup while being fouled, pushing the lead back up to six. On the next possession, he drew three defenders towards him and hit a wide open Van Nest for an easy dunk. From there, he and Rahon managed to control the ball much better and hit their free throws to put the game away. Donahue was particularly impressed with the play of his two freshmen.
“I think they’re going to have to be the guys who have to do it,” Donahue said. “I think they’ve shown already early in their career that they’re guys we can rely on to make good decisions and handle the ball. And they’ll keep getting better and their decision making isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty impressive what they’re doing early.”
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.”
Column: Breaking down BC basketball’s defensive issues
(Photo by Graham Beck/Heights Editor)
By Austin Tedesco, Asst. Sports Editor
FIU’s style of play and Baylor’s high-skill level could’ve misconstrued where this Boston College basketball team is defensively, but, after falling 87-71 to Dayton on Friday afternoon, it’s pretty clear now. This squad just can’t guard consistently. It’s not that the players are bad defenders, because they aren’t, and it’s not that head coach Steve Donahue has a bad defensive scheme, because he doesn’t. On the court, it looks like a team that has made a really impressive leap offensively while still just not getting it on the defensive end of the court. Most of the players have the potential to be good defenders and Donahue is using typical man principles, but the execution just isn’t there and it will need to be fixed if BC is going to stop losing games it shouldn’t. Here’s a breakdown of what is happening in each aspect of the defense.
This is easily the weakest aspect of BC’s defensive game, and all three opponents have attacked it well. The issues begin with the big men defending the screeners. Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford have not consistently been in the right position. The pick-and-roll defense is at its best when Clifford and Anderson step out with their hands up as the ball-handler uses the screen, and then immediately sprint back to their man without losing track of the ball. This has only happened on some occasions. Most of the time, the big man won’t show long enough or won’t show at all, and it leads to a wide open three or a drive to the rim. Andrew Van Nest has done an incredible job at this position, and it’s the reason he’s seeing more playing time.
Another issue in the pick-and-roll is the on-ball guard. Too often, the guard, whether it is Olivier Hanlan, Joe Rahon, or Lonnie Jackson, waits too long to start fighting over the screen. This puts the bigs, especially Clifford who lacks serious lateral quickness, in an awkward position because it means they have to defend a smaller guard for a longer period of time. Hanlan has been the defender in most pick-and-rolls so far since BC’s opponents have been running the play through the point guard. Hanlan has done a good job at times of picking a spot and forcing his way there as he fights over the pick. If the screener tries to keep him from getting there, it should be a foul, as most of these picks are being set while the screener is on the move. If Hanlan can eliminate possessions in which he does his work late and gets stuck chasing his man around the screen rather than cutting him off as he fights over it, then most of the pick-and-roll issues will start to go away. It’s a really difficult thing to do on every possession, but it’s the only way the defense is going to get cleaned up.
Defending the Post:
Post entry has also been a serious problem for the Eagles. For starters, the guards make it way too easy for the pass to get to the opponent’s big men. When BC defends the ball on the perimeter, there hasn’t been a lot of pressure and that has allowed for easy and composed passes to the block. The bigger issue, though, is where and how the BC bigs are defending the man posting up. Both Anderson and Clifford too often find themselves entirely on the back of the man they are defending. Other teams have done a good job of running their post players through some motion before settling on the block, but Anderson and Clifford have to be ready for this. They need to see the post up coming and get themselves in a three-quarter front. Both bigs do this when the post up is obviously coming, but, again, they lack consistency. The three-quarter front, making the entry pass possible only if it is low and near the baseline, takes away so many options for the opposing player in the post and it also makes the guard less comfortable throwing the pass inside. Clifford and Anderson are also not pushing their men off the block enough. This is a tough thing for two young, developing players to do on every possession, but if they keep allowing post players to catch the ball right on the block without pressure, then opponents will keep shooting at a high percentage.
Rotation from the Guards:
Hanlan and Jackson are the biggest culprits here, as Rahon is fundamentally sound on defense and doesn’t struggle with this as much. Both Hanlan and Jackson find themselves watching the ball way too often. They aren’t necessarily losing their men, but they don’t keep themselves in a position to easily help or easily recover. They are choosing one or the other. This leads to both players getting turned around and having to turn all the way back around as they close out to the perimeter. Easy three-point looks for the other team will decrease significantly once Hanlan and Jackson figure out the right position and stay there through each possession.
Two issues stand out here. First, the ball is being stopped way too late. Rahon and Hanlan are both very quick and very talented at on-ball defense. They should feel comfortable picking up the dribbler around half court and they should make it their job to do this every time. Instead, the point guard or lead guard in transition is getting near the NBA three-point line before he is slowed down and this is causing too many fast breaks. The other issue is that too many players are finding their man in transition and sticking to him. This just can’t happen. With one or two players still running back on defense, whatever players are already below the three-point line need to favor the other team’s best shooter and buy time in whatever way they can as the other players get back. Transition is a team endeavor, it’s not the individual matching up that is happening too often right now.
Bob Picozzi, who called the game for ESPN with Jay Williams, accused BC of lacking fight and not wanting it as much as Dayton on Friday. That’s not what I saw at all. A team doesn’t take this many charges without fighting hard. There was probably an emotional letdown from the Baylor game and, with a short rotation, the back-to-back games couldn’t have been easy on the body. All four of these fixes on defense take a whole lot of effort on the court, and if the Eagles can fix all of them it wouldn’t just make a good defensive team, it would make them elite. That won’t happen in the next week or even month, but over the course of the season all of these concepts need to improve. The offense is finally getting there. It’s time for the defense to catch up.