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Takeaways: Eagles escape The Citadel with a Gritty Win

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Recap:

The Boston College Eagles were able to hold off the Bulldogs of The Citadel, winning 75-71. After Quinten Post picked up his second foul just 3:34 into the contest, The Citadel was able to keep pace with Boston College, eventually taking a 38-35 lead into halftime. The Bulldogs carried their momentum into the second half, eventually stretching their lead to as much as six points. With Post playing limited minutes due to foul trouble, the Eagles relied on the leadership of Jaeden Zackery, as well as scoring outbursts from guards DJ Hand and MJ Harris. A personal 5-0 run from Harris allowed the Eagles to take back the lead, going up 60-58 with 9:00 to go in the game, and never relinquished it. Zackery led the way for the Eagles, scoring 21 points on 8-12 from the field. Harris and Devin McGlockton each added 12 points, while Hand scored a crucial 14 points off the bench.

Zackery’s Leadership:

Veteran guard Jaeden Zackery showed remarkable leadership throughout this game. In a game where the best player in the building was stuck on the bench due to foul trouble, the Eagles desperately needed someone to pick up the slack, and Zackery stepped up and delivered. Zackery played 39 of 40 minutes last night, and the Eagles needed every last one of them. With Post on the bench, Zackery was easily the Eagles’ most valuable player on both ends of the floor, racking up a career-high 21 points and swiping 4 steals en route to the victory. With his stellar perimeter defense and ability to make tough buckets, Zackery is the absolute epitome of “gritty not pretty”.

Concerns in the Front Court:

As mentioned in the game recap, Post picked up two quick fouls in the first half, forcing Coach Grant to take him off the floor. The big man was able to return to the game and finish the first half without picking up his third, but picked up fouls three and four after getting called for a ticky-tack hand check and getting hit with a technical. All together, the Eagles only saw Post on the floor for 19 minutes, in which he posted 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 blocks, a far cry from his 31/11/4 stat line against Fairfield. While Post certainly did not have his best performance, the more concerning issue is the Eagles’ lack of depth in the front court. Armani Mighty was the only forward to come off the bench for the Eagles. And while Mighty looked much improved from last season in spot minutes against Fairfield, he definitely struggled last night, going 0-3 from under the basket. With Mighty still coming into his own, look for Grant to play lots of three-guard lineups with Prince Aligbe and McGlockton in the front court during Post’s bench minutes.

Hand as a Spark off the Bench:

The Eagles do not win this game without the performance of sophomore guard DJ Hand. One could argue that, outside of Zackery, Hand was the Eagles’ best offensive player. Hand’s 14 points came on 5-11 efficiency, and the sophomore was able to get buckets both inside and outside the arc. In both games this season, Hand has proven to be an incredibly valuable scorer off the bench, averaging 11.5 points. When the offense got stagnant with Post on the bench, Hand was able to put the ball in the basket in key moments, keeping BC within striking distance. While Zackery has been excellent thus far, the Eagles cannot reasonably expect Zackery to duplicate his stellar performance each night. So having Hand as a spark plug off the bench is crucial, and Grant will continue to give the sophomore guard opportunities to prove himself.

Got the Job Done:

My last takeaway is simple: the Eagles found a way to win this game. In seasons past, this is a game the BC loses (see: the Maine game last year). Away from their home court, the Eagles found themselves in a hole, with their best player having foul trouble all game, and The Citadel shooting over 50% from beyond the arc in the first half. A less mature team might have folded and chalked this game up as “just one of those games”, but not these Eagles. There are those who, understandably so, will say a four-point victory over a bottom-100 team is no victory at all. But the bottom line is simple, Grant and his squad found a way to win. Grant’s mantra has always been “Gritty not Pretty”, and Friday night’s victory exemplifies that perfectly.

What’s Next:

After their tough game on the road, the Eagles fly home for a pair of home games next week. Boston College will take on the Richmond Spiders this Wednesday at 7 PM, followed by an inter-Boston clash against the Harvard Crimson next Saturday at 5 PM. The Eagles will likely be slightly favored in both games, but nothing can be taken for granted with this team. With Richmond and Harvard both ranked within 80 spots of BC in Ken Pomeroy’s Division-1 rankings, both games should be competitive. As I’ve said before, I believe this team has the talent to make some noise in the ACC. And if the Eagles want to have any chance of making a postseason tournament, they must continue capitalizing on their out-of-conference schedule.

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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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