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Takeaways: BC downs Vanderbilt 80-62 in Inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge

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Game Recap:

As part of the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge, Boston College took down Vanderbilt by a score of 80-62. The Eagles played their best basketball of the season in the first half, moving the ball extremely well and playing their typical stifling defense, and took a commanding 44-23 lead into the locker room. In the second half, Vanderbilt was able to cut the lead down to as few as 11 points. However, the Eagles were able to regroup and finish the game on a high note with some timely buckets from Claudell Harris Jr. and Mason Madsen in the closing minutes of the contest. Quinten Post led the way with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks. This is Post’s sixth 20-point game in the young season, and he continues to prove why he’s one of the most productive big men in the country. Harris Jr. poured in 22 points of his own, his highest-scoring game in a Boston College uniform. Finally, Jaeden Zackery had himself a solid game, scoring 10 points, dishing out 8 assists, and forcing 2 steals in his 34 minutes.

Scoring Excellence from Harris Jr.:

While Post has cemented himself as the Eagles’ primary option on offense, Harris Jr. has proven to be an excellent secondary scoring threat. Last night, Harris scored 22 points on an incredibly efficient 9-for-13 from the field, and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Harris was a key reason the Eagles were able to build such a dominating first half lead, as 15 of his 22 points came in the first frame. Most importantly, however, Harris was able to carry the offensive load with Post on the bench with foul trouble. While this team has shown signs of struggle with the big man off the court, Harris has more than proven that he can take over when needed. Harris’ ability to hit contested jump shots is something that the Eagles have not previously had in Coach Grant’s tenure, so look for him to continue to shoot at a high volume.

Zackery Dropping Dimes:

While Post and Harris Jr. led the way in scoring for the Eagles, Zackery left his mark on the game with his tenacious defense and surgical facilitation. Once again, the veteran point guard was able to leave his mark on the game without putting the ball in the basket. Though Zackery was scoreless in the first half, he dished out an eye-popping six assists. No one else on either team had more than a single assist in the half. Zackery also drew the tough defensive assignment of Vanderbilt’s best player Ezra Manjon. While Manjon got his 16 points, Zackery made sure that nothing came easy to the guard, who came into the game averaging nearly 20 points a contest. Zackery finished the game with a stat line of 10 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals. Both Zackery’s playmaking and perimeter defense will continue to be key, as the Eagles open up ACC play this weekend.

Front Court Positives (outside of Post):

Nearly every “takeaways” article written so far this season has included a section regarding concerns with front-court depth. However, this article finally has something nice to say about the depth behind Post. With Post’s foul trouble in the first half, sophomore center Armani Mighty played eight crucial first-half minutes. With Mighty holding down the paint, the Eagles did not simply maintain their lead, they added to it. Mighty’s box score stats aren’t going to jump off the sheet to anyone, but the big man played solid defense and knew where to be on offense, which is all any BC fan could reasonably ask of the backup center. Also, freshman forward Elijah Strong provided another spark in his two minutes off the bench. The freshman scored his first career collegiate bucket at the first-half buzzer, prompting the entire Eagles bench to mob him on the floor. While front-court depth will continue to be an issue to monitor, especially come ACC play, last night’s performance was promising.

Late Game Concerns:

After a dominating first half, the Eagles extended their lead to as much as 24 points in the second half. While this should have been a large enough lead for the casual Eagles fan to turn the game off and head to bed, the die-hard fans might have had the late-game collapse against Loyola Chicago in the back of their minds. In stark contrast to their first-half performance, there were several consecutive possessions of sloppy offense and lazy defense, allowing Vanderbilt to cut the Eagle lead to 11 points. There was a brief moment with 2:15 to go, when the Eagles were on defense up 71-60, when some fans might have felt some doubts creeping in. However, BC was able to cast any doubts aside and end the game on a 9-2 run. Despite last night’s win, the past two games have each included some precarious late-game situations.

What’s Next:

With this win, Boston College moves to 5-2 on the season. The Eagles return to action this Saturday, where they will open ACC play with a home game against the NC State Wolfpack. The Wolfpack are 4-2 on the season, and are coming off a 20-point loss to Ole Miss in the ACC/SEC challenge. So, the stage is set for what should be a competitive ACC matchup, and a great indicator of what Eagles fans can expect for the rest of the season.

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Florida State 84, Boston College 76: Eagles struggle to defend Seminoles

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Boston College fell to Florida State 84-76 Tuesday night in Tallahassee, as despite a quick start scoring-wise the Eagles struggled to defend a similarly-hot-handed Seminoles team that dropped the Eagles to 6-9 in conference play.

It was back-and-forth very early on, with the first missed shot of the game not coming until almost four minutes in. The first half ended in a high-scoring 43-43 knot.

Things stayed even until roughly the halfway mark of the second half when FSU went on a 10-0 run that gave them a 70-61 advantage, the largest lead of the entire game for both sides. That ended up being the deciding factor, as the Eagles were unable to get within less than eight from that point on.

BC had four players in double-figures for scoring-wise, getting just eight points from the bench. Jaeden Zackery led the way with 19 on 3-for-3 from 3-point range, while Mason Madsen hit four 3s and put up 14. Quinten Post tallied 15 with seven of those points coming from the charity strike and Devin McGlockton also put up 13 points. The lone starting five member not in double-digits was Claudell Harris, who went just 1-for-5 from beyond the arch inducing just seven points out of him.

Boston College will continue the road trip and take on NC State Saturday in Raleigh at 2:00 p.m. ET, with the Eagles hoping to avoid the double-digit mark of losses in ACC play. The Wolfpack are losers of three out of their last four, however.

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Takeaways: BC Defends Homecourt against Louisville and Miami

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Mason Madsen hitting one of his seven threes. Photo Courtesy of Canes County

Recap:

Last week, the Boston College Men’s Basketball team was able to defend home court twice: on Tuesday night against Louisville, and on Saturday afternoon against Miami. Late Tuesday night, the Eagles were able to overcome a sluggish start, and an empty Conte Forum, and beat the last-place Louisville Cardinals 89-77. The Eagles saw six players reach double figures in scoring, led by Claudell Harris Jr.’s 20 points,  Devin McGlockton’s 19 points, and Quinten Post’s 17 points. This win was especially crucial for BC, as they were coming off consecutive losses to FSU and Duke, and allowed the Eagles to stay in contact with the middle tier of the ACC. 

After taking down Louisville in a desolate Conte Forum, the Eagles returned to their home court on Saturday to a much different scene. With a much more fan-friendly tipoff time of 4PM, Conte played host to an excellent crowd for their matchup against Miami. And, to the delight of the Eagle-faithful, BC got off to a scorching hot start, taking an 18-7 lead early on. While the Hurricanes were able to even the score at halftime, and take as much as a five-point lead late in the second half, Mason Madsen’s hot hand, and Post’s dominance in the paint were enough to propel the Eagles to an 85-77 victory. 

Offensive Excellence:

After scoring just 62 against FSU and 65 against Duke, I was beginning to lose faith in Coach Grant’s offensive system. However, these past two games have been excellent offensive showings for the Eagles. Against Louisville, BC scored a remarkable 89 points on 56.7% from the field, and 47.8% from behind the arc. And it wasn’t that the Eags were knocking down uncharacteristically difficult shots. Grant’s offense was actually able to generate great looks for open shooters, racking up 21 assists in the process. 

While it might not have been surprising to see the Eagles rack up 89 points on the last place team in the ACC, it was certainly encouraging to see them follow up with a similar performance against Miami. In Saturday’s game, the offense put up 85 points on similarly efficient splits of 47.5% from the field and 50% (15-30!) from three. Madsen and Post led the way offensively, accounting for 15 of the Eagles’ 28 converted field goals. If Grant can keep the offense humming the way it has for the past two outings, each of the six games remaining on the schedule look very winnable. 

Madsen Madness:

Since being inserted into the starting lineup against Duke, Mason Madsen has been an absolute revelation for the Eagles. In the past three games, the Eagles are 2-1, with their lone loss coming away at Duke. Throughout that three game span, Madsen has led the Eagles in scoring, averaging 17 points per game. And the highlight of this stretch came in his 25-point performance against Miami, where he hit (possibly) the most important three-pointer of the Eagles’ season. 

Madsen absolutely torched the Hurricanes from behind the arc, knocking down a career-high seven three pointers en route to the win. With Madsen’s latest hot streak from three, he is now shooting 45.8% from beyond the arc, which is well above the 90th percentile in Division One. With Madsen now in the starting lineup, the Eagles now have three serious threats from behind the arc, with Post hitting 46.1% of his attempts, and Harris Jr. hitting 38.9% of his. The spacing and offensive flow of Grant’s new-look starting five is enormously better with Madsen in for Aligbe, but we will see if the Eagles can survive without Aligbe’s size and added rebounding. 

Defensive Concerns:

While the offense was clicking on all cylinders last week, I cannot help but be a bit concerned about the Eagles’ defense. In an interesting contrast to Grant’s first two seasons, where the Eagles hung their hats on their ability to defend, this iteration of the Eagles’ roster is much more capable offensively, but has shown some cracks on the defensive end. For example, BC gave up 47 first half points on 51% shooting against Louisville. While Louisville has shown some ability to score, there is no legitimate reason to allow the last place team in the ACC to run up the score like that. Thankfully, the Eagles woke up on defense in the second frame, only allowing 30 second half points. 

Next, against Miami, at times it felt like the Hurricanes could get whatever look they wanted on offense. The Hurricanes shot 56% in the first half, and frankly, it could have been much worse. The Eagles seemed flummoxed by the Hurricane’s pick and roll, and whenever Post was switched off of Miami’s Norchad Omier, it seemed to always result in an open shot. Though I will give Grant credit for switching to his “amoeba” defense down the stretch. While Miami was able to exploit the Eagle’s man-to-man defense, they struggled with the matchup-zone look in the waning minutes. BC’s defense down the stretch was the key to igniting their 17-4 run to end the game. 

Outlook on the Remaining Schedule:

Thanks to the Eagles’ 2-0 homestand, they are now in contact with the middle of the ACC. After falling to 13-10 (4-8 ACC) after Duke, they were in real danger of dooming themselves to the basement of the ACC. But, with eight teams within two games of each other in the ACC standings, the Eagles will have several opportunities to continue climbing the ladder. BC’s remaining schedule consists of road games against Florida State and NC State, a homestand against UVA and Pitt, and a pair of road games against Miami and Pitt.

The good news for the Eagles? All six of these games are extremely winnable. The bad news? All six of these games are also losable. The margin for error is razor thin in this final stretch of the regular season. But, if the Eagles can find a way to win 3-4 of these games, they could be in contention for a first round bye in the ACC tournament, and perhaps a bid to the NIT. 

What’s Next:

Boston College returns to action Tuesday night at 7PM, when they will take on the aforementioned Florida State Seminoles. After losing a gut-wrenching 63-62 game to the Seminoles in Conte Forum, the Eagles will be looking for revenge. This game also has severe implications for the ACC standings, as FSU holds a one-game lead over BC in the standings. The Seminoles open as 4.5-point favorites against the Eagles. 

A win would go a long way towards securing that first-round bye, but even more so for the energy surrounding the program. We just saw what a packed Conte Forum can look like against Miami. So it is imperative that the Eagles return home with some kind of momentum, and get fans invested in the team’s stretch run.

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Boston College 85, Miami 77: Mason Madsen hits career-highs in Eagles win over Hurricanes

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Mason Madsen had a day to remember for Boston College Saturday, as he led the Eagles past Miami with a career-high seven 3-pointers and 25 points. BC won, 85-77, as they kept the momentum from a quick start all the way through.

The Eagles were ahead fast and early, jumping out to an 18-7 lead just five minutes into the ballgame. Miami eventually caught up to them though in a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle — the Hurricanes tied it at 29-29 with 7:41 to go in the first half. They battled until the end of the half, when it was tied 41-41 after 20 minutes of play.

It remained back-and-forth but Miami began to gain an edge about halfway through the second half. They then held on to a lead from the 12-minute mark all the way to the three-minute mark, but the Eagles’ deficit didn’t get further than four points away from the Hurricanes. A Claudell Harris Jr. layup with three minutes to go made it 74-73 Eagles, and they added on from there. Madsen knocked down a 3 before a pair of Devin McGlockton converted free throws put them in front by six with a minute to go, and they held on to that lead with a few baskets made from both sides to give BC the 85-77 victory.

Quinten Post had 23 for the Eagles, a big night for him after he had been struggling the past few outings, also knocking down a trio of 3-pointers. Harris Jr. had 15 while Jaeden Zackery added 11 to go along with seven assists. McGlockton picked up a team-best 10 rebounds.

BC moves to 6-8 in conference play Tuesday night in Tallahassee as they take on Florida State with a 7 p.m. ET tip. They continue the road trip with a matchup against the Wolfpack a week from today, as NC State plays hosts to BC next Saturday afternoon in the 2:00 p.m. ET slot.

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