Clifford And Company Dominate The Paint In Victory Over Harvard

While the Boston College Eagles did not turn in a performance that will be featured in any how-to instructional basketball videos, they got the job done against the Harvard Crimson on Wednesday night.

Along with that, the morale of the BC program got a boost as the Eagles put an end to a six-year skid against the Crimson, something that Olivier Hanlan noted in his press conference after losing to the Crimson both times in his first two seasons at the Heights. In a game that featured an 11-2 run for the Eagles to start the game and as much as a 15-point lead in the first half, the Eagles allowed Harvard back into the game in the second half, which has cost the Eagles wins already this season.

This game was very similar to the one against Pittsburgh, in which the Eagles surrendered large leads to the Panthers before dropping the game in overtime. It was crucial for the Eagles to gain the confidence of finishing off a game that they controlled most of the way.

In this overtime, the Eagles received a clutchperformance from Patrick Heckmann, the senior forward out of Germany. Heckmann scored seven points in overtime, including a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to five points with only 46 seconds remaining before throwing down a dunk with 17 seconds that sealed the game.

BC had big performances from its whole starting lineup, accounting for 60 of its 64 points. Two major factors propelled the Eagles to their eighth win of the season, matching the tally of last year’s team.DSC_3678

STOUT TEAM DEFENSE: From the outset, BC’s defense was the obvious key in this victory. The Eagles held the Crimson to 32 percent shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers in the game. This defensive dominance ignited BC’s hot start, giving it a necessary cushion down the stretch.

Head coach Jim Christian was very aware of the crucial importance of his defense in the post game press conference. “If you guard, you’ve got a chance to win every game,” he said.

BC’s offense is not typically capable of keeping it ahead in too many games, which was clear again in this one. The Eagles shot just 24 percent from beyond the arc and only 40 percent from the foul line.

Their offensive shortcomings make defense that much more important, and it really shines a light on the essential role played by center Dennis Clifford. He is capable of erasing a lot of the errors that perimeter defenders may make with his overwhelming size in the paint.

The team as a whole also did a good job defending Harvard’s leading scorer Wesley Saunders, holding him to just 15 points while forcing seven turnovers. BC used a lot of different looks to slow down Saunders, using lighting rod Garland Owens off the bench to slow him down.

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DOMINANCE IN THE PAINT: A glaring difference in the box score from this game was the difference in points in the paint for each team. BC scored 38 points in the paint and held Harvard to only 16. While the Eagles only start one player taller than six-foot-five, they still controlled the paint.

Over the course of the game, Hanlan was capable of getting into the paint almost at will, hitting multiple tough shots but also finding teammates on his way to eight assists. One of those teammates was Clifford, who scored 12 points of his own and added 10 rebounds to record a double-double.

Both keys to this game came together at the end when BC’s defense proved itself by having a solid handle on defending the paint when it mattered most. In the post-game press conference, Christian noted the importance that defending on the final possession had for his team. His team’s defense was called upon to get a stop to send it to overtime and it delivered, allowing the Eagles to soar over the Crimson.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor