Highlight reel-creators cannot have the easiest job. Sure, they get to watch and re-watch the most interesting parts of each game, but what happens if there aren’t any highlights?
Or at least—as it was for Boston College men’s basketball against Maine on Thursday—there are a total of about three?
A lack of exciting plays plagued both teams—Maine didn’t particularly add any highlight plays—which should come as a surprise in a game that was a shootout from the beginning. BC took the lead early and never gave it up, finishing with an 85-74 win.
In the end, it was a game that the Eagles didn’t exactly deserve to win. Then again, neither did 1-8 Maine, who stuck around but could never string together a long enough run to threaten BC. Deserving to win means nothing to the win column, of course—it’s an ideal that falls along the same line as someone complaining life isn’t fair.
So, while BC enjoys a victory at the hands of its inferior opponent, here are some factors from Thursday’s game that will decide whether BC “deserves” to win its bigger games in January.
1. Defensive weakness
Based on his tone in the press conference, Jim Christian didn’t have trouble summing up his team’s performance on D. He barely needed to voice his dissatisfaction in the post-game press conference, since his repeated yelling and frustrated facial expressions during the game spoke for him.
It was a disappointing effort all-around. On the inside, Dennis Clifford, apart from three blocks, continued to appear overmatched. Maine big man Till Gloger, who is four inches shorter than Clifford, went 6-10 inside and nailed all five free throws he attempted to tally 17 points.
While this is nothing new, the outside was also weak for the Eagles. BC’s guards were slow to pick up men on the perimeter, allowing unremarkable ball movement to create wide-open 3-point shots for Maine, who went seven-of-17 on the night. Maine’s Zarko Valjarevic went four-of-eight from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 22-point performance.
While stronger opponents will likely lead to a greater adrenaline and hustle, BC can’t allow itself to ease up on the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles did well to limit their past few matchups’ leading scorer from making a serious impact, including Thursday when they held Shaun Lawton to nine points on 3-6 shooting. Still, the entire team needs to step up and prevent role players from breaking out and putting up high, double-digit totals.
2. Dennis Clifford
“I thought that was as aggressive as Dennis has been all year long,” said Christian. “He has worked extremely hard and he hasn’t had the results that he wants. Tonight, he got the ball in great spots and made his free throws.”
Christian was happy, and should be, for his junior center after Thursday’s win. (Focusing on the offensive side this time.) Clifford put up 19 points, a career-high. He was efficient, making 5-6 from his home in the paint. And, perhaps best of all, he made the most of his many trips to the line, hitting nine-of-11.
Now, to be fair, this is against Maine—not the greatest of challenges down-low. But, this might be exactly what a guy who missed the 2013-14 season and hasn’t looked entirely comfortable down-low needed. As Paul Crewe told the warden in The Longest Yard, a “tune-up game” can be the best thing to build a team’s confidence. Clifford may also benefit from that opportunity.
If anything, Clifford’s outing has his teammates excited.
“It was great to see Dennis come out and play the way he did,” Aaron Brown said. “I know offensively he’s been struggling in the first couple games. I thought today, for the first time, he demanded the ball.”
3. Aaron Brown
Aaron Brown can lead this team. He showed it in the team’s opener against UNH, he showed it against Marist, and he showed it yet again against Maine.
This is great news for BC. On nights when Olivier Hanlan came out and did not shoot well from the floor, Brown has stepped up. He put up a team-high 21 points against Maine, knocking down 4-7 from three and adding in an exciting slam for good measure (one of the three highlights).
Even on nights where Hanlan does come out and take over, Brown still provides a veteran presence on the team that cannot be understated. Guys look up to him, and for good reason.
A win over Maine does not mean much in the grand scheme of things for BC, but it does highlight the glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed before January. Although new challenges are swiftly approaching, Christian can’t be too disappointed with a 5-3 record at this point in the year.
Featured Images by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff