Through the first five minutes of Boston College men’s basketball’s game against UMass-Lowell on Monday afternoon, the Eagles finally looked like they had everything figured out.
BC’s possessions in that time: Dennis Clifford layup, Olivier Hanlan layup, Dimitri Batten 3-pointer, Aaron Brown 3-pointer, Brown layup, Alex Dragicevich 3-pointer, Clifford slam. Meanwhile, the River Hawks possessions: turnover, turnover, Jahad Thomas layup, missed layup, missed 3-pointer, turnover, Thomas layup, turnover.
The Eagles used this seven-for-seven stretch and four UMass-Lowell turnovers to sprint to a 17-4 lead, and eventually made it a 19-4 game. BC had smooth rhythm, good rotations on defense, and most importantly, a full lineup of hot hands. The game had “blowout” written all over it.
But, although it may not have looked like it, this was the same BC team. The Eagles would eventually finish with a 70-47 victory, but not before they allowed UMass-Lowell back into the game.
As good as BC’s shooting was in the first five minutes, it turned into a disaster for the last 15. The team shot just two-of-15 from the field in the rest of the half, and failed to net a field goal in the final 10 minutes.
At the same time, UMass-Lowell began to make its threes, slowly trimming the lead throughout the rest of the half. The Eagles’ advantage eventually dwindled to just two points, and, though they did manage to draw some fouls, they were far from lights-out at the line. Three trips to the charity stripe widened BC’s lead to 29-22 at the half, but the River Hawks were still within striking distance.
At the beginning of the second half, however, BC’s leading scorer took over. No, not Hanlan. Not anymore.
Aaron Brown, who had seven points in the first half, broke out in the second, scoring eight points before UMass Lowell could sink its second field goal. He had 11 of BC’s first 13 points in the half on four-for-four shooting and opened up a 16-point lead for the Eagles. BC never looked back.
So where was Hanlan? That question has surfaced more than once over the past few weeks as the guard continues search for a shooting groove that pestered even the strongest ACC defenses last season. He finished Monday’s game shooting four-for-12 from the field without even attempting a 3-point shot.
Perhaps the more impressive part of Brown becoming the BC’s leader scorer has been his efficiency compared to Hanlan’s this season. Hanlan leads BC with 152 shots and 388 minutes through 11 games this year, while Brown ranks second in both categories with 137 and 328, respectively. In that time, Hanlan was one of just two Eagles to have a true shooting percentage under .500. Brown, meanwhile, stands at .566—a good number for a guard, and one which has allowed him to overtake Hanlan and lead BC with 16.1 points per game.
Hanlan, though still averaging a strong clip of 15.5 PPG, can’t expect to lead BC to wins on nights while also missing so many shots. Should his struggles continue, Hanlan may need to start looking pass-first on some possessions. He has shown a clear ability to drive, create space, and find the open man, and as more talented teams come to Conte this season, Hanlan won’t have the chance to try and shoot his way out of a slump.
With this win over UMass-Lowell, the Eagles will enter their stretch of ACC games (only broken up by a Jan. 14 matchup against Harvard) with a 7-4 record. It will kick off with a game this Saturday at No. 2 Duke, when BC’s bigs will try their best to defend freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor, as well as the rest of a powerful Blue Devils squad.
Thanks to history and recent memory, BC still holds a ray of hope, albeit a small one. In their last matchup with a ranked team, the Eagles knocked off No. 1 Syracuse with an overtime road win. Time will tell if BC can recreate the magic the team had last year in the Carrier Dome.