Sometimes it seems like the last two minutes of a basketball game takes an hour. Imagine that depressing mentality starting earlier, with 18 minutes left of game clock.
In the Boston College men’s basketball team’s fourth ACC triumph of the season, the Eagles combined with opponent Wake Forest to attempt 54 free throws in the second half of a mind-numbing game of college hoops.
The game’s opening minutes consisted of back and forth play, before the Eagles’ defense began to shape shift in order to confuse the Demon Deacons. In a 2-3 zone, Steve Donahue’s team made Wake Forest stagnant on offense. What turned into a matchup zone slowed down the opposition’s attack, which is the strategy’s goal. A matchup zone makes the opposition work the shot clock, as it slows them down for about 15-20 seconds.
BC’s defense caused the home team to turn the ball over seven times in the game’s first 12 minutes and it limited the amount of quality shots Wake Forest was able to get off in the paint. Switching between a man and zone defense on multiple possessions midway through the second half stymied the Demon Deacons further, as they failed to score a two-point field goal until just 5:34 remained in the first half. Free throw attempts and 3-pointers from the hosts kept the Eagles from pulling away.
Freshman forward Garland Owens was the weak link in BC’s zone. Owens often became too drawn into the key when the Demon Deacons looked to drive, which left a 3-point shooter wide open in the corner. While Owens’ man-to-man abilities have improved over the season, it seems that it will take time for the freshman to adapt to the pace at which the zone has to be played in ACC. Owens has the explosiveness and extra pop on offense that the Eagles lack though, and he was able to spice up the proceedings when he finished an alley-oop from Lonnie Jackson.
In the low post the Eagles shined. Ryan Anderson came up huge on the offensive glass to give his team multiple second chance opportunities, though it rarely took advantage of them. The Eagles’ ability to score off turnovers was key in making up for that, as 11 points came from the 10 first half turnovers that they forced.
KC Caudill played his best game in maroon and gold, functioning as a big body in the lane during a career-high 23 minutes. The 6-foot-11, 269-pound center is the largest player on BC’s roster. While he is not mobile, he did enough to fend off the opposition when it attacked the paint. There was a noticeable difference when freshman Will Magarity replaced Caudill, as the equally tall freshman was easier to get around for Wake Forest’s guards. On the other end of the floor, Caudill served as a clog in the Eagles’ offense. He stood in the high post to jam things up, which helped his team get open shots from the outside and gave it opportunities to get to the basket. His seven rebounds tied for a game-high with fellow junior Ryan Anderson.
Coming out of the break with a six-point lead, the Eagles continued to switch defensive strategies, though Wake Forest was able to creep its way back into the game and take a 42-40 lead after a pair of free throws from Tyler Cavanaugh.
The Eagles responded swiftly through back-to-back 3-pointers from junior guards Patrick Heckman and Lonnie Jackson. The triples spurred a 16-3 run, which Heckmann capped with a layup just after the midway point of the second half.
The game then turned into a free throw shooting contest. A KC Caudill layup with 7:07 remaining was the Eagles’ last field goal, as their final 18 points of the game came from the charity stripe.
Anderson was key from the line, hitting 14-of-16 free throws and nine of Olivier Hanlan’s 17 points came from the charity stripe. For Wake Forest, Devin Thomas hit 12 free throws and Cavanaugh knocked down all six of his. Despite the teams combining for 48 fouls, only two players fouled out, as Magarity and Cavanaugh were both given their marching orders in the second half.
With two ACC contests remaining, the win will play a role in the Eagles’ hunt for a higher seed in the conference tournament, which comes a week after the team’s final home game of the season on Tuesday. The road win tied the Eagles with Georgia Tech, who beat the Eagles twice this season. Another win from BC’s last two games would see it surpass the Yellow Jackets and possibly the Demon Deacons in the ACC standings.