Boston College men’s basketball halted a six-game skid on Sunday afternoon in Chestnut Hill, sprinting past the University of Maine 91-60 behind 16 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds from fifth-year graduate student Eli Carter.
Pushing the Pace: After every defensive rebound, Eagles head coach sang the same refrain. “Push! Push!” he yelled over and over again, imploring his squad to run the floor at every opportunity.
“We showed a ton of clips from the Providence game where we just didn’t sprint the floor,” Christian said after the game. “Where we had steals, and we had opportunities, and we didn’t attack. And tonight we attacked, regardless of who was in the game.”
BC shot 53.7 percent from the field on 67 shots, the highest number of attempts in a single game through the Eagles’ first 10 contests in 2015.
A.J. Turner was the prime beneficiary of the game’s rabid pace, slamming down two vicious dunks in transition and hammering home another pair in the half court.
Full Court Pressure: BC emerged from the final media timeout of the first half with some newfound vigor, whipping out for the first time all afternoon Christian’s full court diamond-and-one press, which forced three Black Bears turnovers and helped spark a 17-5 run to end the period.
“It’s a lineup thing,” Christian said, referring to the press. “It does a couple things. It kinda shortens the clock at the same time as trying to cause some turnovers. So, yeah, it’s been effective for us.”
Christian trotted out a lineup of Darryl Hicks, Jerome Robinson, Eli Carter, Garland Owens, and Ervins Meznieks, all of whom stand 6-foot-7 or shorter, to catalyze the press, and the Eagles entered the half with a 15-point advantage.
Jerome Robinson in the Post: Robinson is a 6-foot-5 point guard with arms longer than Marvel supervillain Dr. Octopus. Christian runs a particular set for Robinson from time to time that gets him the ball deep in the paint, where he can quickly seal, catch, turn, and plop in a little hook shot before the defense knows what has hit it.
There’s an obvious balance to strike, as Christian was quick to point out.
“He’s good down there, so it’s a good option for us,” Christian said. “We’re not going to be a team that bangs it into a 180-pound guard the whole time, but he can get effective down there.”
On-Ball Defense from the Frosh: Christian’s freshmen guards—Matt Milon, Robinson, and Turner, in particular—are going to have to button up their on-ball perimeter defense when conference play opens against Duke on Jan. 2 in Conte Forum.
The Black Bears zipped by their primary defenders with almost zero resistance on a number of occasions, but were unable to capitalize at the hoop. That won’t be the case against North Carolina State’s Cat Barber, Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson, or North Carolina’s Marcus Paige––those guys will finish nearly every time if permitted a sliver of space.
Robinson, to his credit, has flashed an ability to lock down and beat attacking guards to the spot when he’s dialed in, but Milon and Turner have been shakier one-on-one.
Foul Trouble: The 7-foot Dennis Clifford and 6-foot-11 Idy Diallo each picked up two fouls before the game’s first media timeout, and the Eagles played 10 consecutive minutes without a center. Against Maine, whose tallest player is 6-foot-8 forward Till Gloger, it’s not that big of a deal. Foul trouble among the bigs, however, will mean death in the ACC.
Christian adjusted nicely, and against some future opposing lineups, even in the ACC, a super-small quintet could work to BC’s advantage.
Regardless, it’s never beneficial to put the opposing team in the bonus before the midway point of the first half, as BC did on Sunday.
Post Defense: Clifford is no stiff—he’s active, nimble, athletic. His two thunderous dunks in the second half, including an and-one that brought the BC bench to its feet, are a testament to this reality.
But both he and Diallo, despite working with generous height advantages, did a poor job defending one-on-one post-ups on Sunday.
Clifford got taken back to elementary school twice in the span of four possessions by the ground-bound Gloger, and Diallo picked up his second foul with 17 minutes remaining in the first half because he couldn’t stay in front of his man on a simple drop-step to the middle.
Christian and his staff have a lot to be happy about—the Eagles pushed the pace for all 40 minutes and BC recorded 24 assists.
Still, there are some kinks that the team needs to straighten out as non-conference play enters its twilight.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor