After Alex Dragicevich stole the ball in the paint and found Olivier Hanlan, Christian Beyer picked the sophomore’s pocket. The junior forward looked for teammate Devin Wilson, but the freshman was hesitant. As the ball skipped under the freshman’s hands to center court, Joe Rahon got on the floor. He dove on the hardwood, and like a goalkeeper tipping the ball around his post, the sophomore guard’s hand pushed the ball away from Jarell Eddie and into the hands of Patrick Heckmann. The junior forward pushed up the floor and found Ryan Anderson down low. Anderson drew a foul and went to the line. Hitting one of his two free throws, the junior gave BC a 10-point lead more than halfway into the first half. That sequence was the spark the Eagles needed.
If BC is to finish the season strong, after a miserable first half, it is going to have to be scrappy and aggressive. The men’s basketball team has been without intensity all year, but against Virginia Tech, it finally found its way, winning 76-52.
“I thought we came out and really played with great alertness and intensity on the defensive end,” said BC head coach Steve Donahue.
The Eagles played with passion on both ends of the floor and were able to breakdown their opponents’ defense.
James Johnson’s squad played a man-to-man defense to start the night, but its marking was sloppy at best, as it has been all season. The Eagles found it easy to split the visitors with their ball movement in Donahue’s spread offense.
Just moments into the game, it started to rain threes in Conte Forum. Rahon was hot early on and he finished the first half with three from behind the arc, while Heckmann got in on the act along with Dragicevich.
BC opened up an enormous advantage over a vulnerable Virginia Tech defense.
After starting out in their sloppy man defense, which caused bodies to clash all over the floor, the Hokies switched to a 2-3 zone. The Eagles have faced multiple zone defenses this season, including ones by Philadelphia, Georgia Tech, and the formidable 2-3 zone of Syracuse, but tonight was different.
The Hokies were condensed and out of shape. To fight the zone, Anderson went into the high post and was joined by KC Caudill. Donahue put the junior center into the lineup to throw another body into the area where the zone defense is most vulnerable.
The sequence was momentary, but it allowed Anderson to get to the rack twice.
After Johnson’s initial zone experiment proved unsuccessful, the Hokies switched back to the man, but the players looked confused. Orange shirts were littered around the paint. The visitors were lost. They were forgetting to cover their men and allowing BC to get open looks.
Again, the Eagles took advantage. Possession after possession, BC exploited Virginia Tech. After Johnson’s switch, Dragicevich nailed a three to give the Eagles a 23-12 advantage and the rout was on.
“One of the things was less dribbling, more passes,” Rahon said. “So, yeah, we spread the floor. If you have a lane you dribble, you drive, you penetrate, draw somebody, you kick. If that guy doesn’t have a shot and makes an extra pass and you kind of just play from there, and you just play loose, free basketball.”
The Eagles were moving the ball very well and shredding the Virginia Tech defense again and again.
“I think that had a lot to do with Boston College,” Johnson said. “I think they dribbled, drove, even against the zone. They drove the lane. We had to help and once you’ve got the help on the ball and don’t contain the ball with this man on the zone, now your defense is in scramble situation and they put us in scramble situation way too many times tonight.”
Donahue’s offense was firing on all cylinders. The ball moved with ease around the perimeter and when BC drove, it was easy for the man with the ball to kick it out to the open man.
“The ball always seems to go in more if it’s whipped around the perimeter-three or four passes, no dribbles,” Rahon said. “It always seems that that guy’s shooting, that ball’s always going to go in. Today we were able to get a lot of open looks and we knocked them out.”
The easy shots kept coming for Rahon, who finished with 20 points, 15 of which came from 3-pointers.
In the first half, Rahon got his hands dirty on the defensive end as well. In addition to laying out, he defended on the arc. Just before his hustle play, Rahon picked off a pass from Will Johnston and ran the floor, curling his way to the bucket for an easy layup to put BC up 28-19 with 7:23 left in the first half. With that effort, BC was off and running.
Donahue’s team held a commanding 13-point, 46-33 lead heading into the break.
The team’s lead came without the help of Olivier Hanlan. Taking just one shot in the first half, he was quiet. He put up five points and all of them came from the stripe.
To start the second half, the sophomore guard hit consecutive triples to give the Eagles a 21-point lead.
Once Hanlan got going, though, he picked up a technical foul, which brought him up to four personals on the night. It forced Donahue to bench his leading scorer, putting pressure on the rest of the team.
Hanlan’s teammates were able to rise to the occasion. Rahon was able to drain two more from behind the arc, and Heckmann added a pair of his own in the second half, while Anderson dominated the paint.
Dragicevich’s second half triple gave the Eagles a 30-point advantage less than seven minutes from the end of regulation time.
Without its leading scorer, the Eagles were able to finish off their vulnerable opposition and will look to use the win to reboot their season once again.
“I want to really talk about excellence and trying to be really good about what we can be good at,” Donahue said.
“Everything I do is about erasing the past.”
It’s going to be difficult to forget a dreadful run in non-conference play and a poor start to an ACC schedule, though. Those games are reflected in BC’s record, and it will be impossible for this team to ignore those blemishes, regardless of Donahue’s plans.