Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Eagles start hot, run away from Va. Tech
By Jack McCluskey
BC guards Patrick Heckmann and Joe Rahon enjoyed an easy home win over the Hokies.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- For much of this season, Boston College has been like an old computer: It takes forever to start, but once it gets going it can do just about everything it needs to.
The embattled Eagles have exhibited a habit of booting slowly this season, trailing at the half in 12 of their first 19 games. BC was 2-10 in those games.
So before Wednesday night's game against Virginia Tech, the only thing written on the whiteboard in the BC locker room was "The BC Way."
"That is we move the ball and we play for each other," sophomore guard Joe Rahon explained. "The only thing we're thinking in our minds is, 'How do I make my teammates' lives easier?' So we came out, my teammates gave me two great looks and I was able to knock them down.
"I think it gets the guys going when you see a teammate making some shots early, and that gave us confidence throughout the game."
Rahon had two of BC's first three buckets, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key on one and a 3 from the left side on another, and the Eagles erased the Hokies' largest lead (two, at 7-5) and were off and running to a 76-52 win.
BC shot nearly 70 percent (13-for-19 for 68.4 percent) from the field in the first half, including a 7-for-12 mark on 3s. After Rahon drove baseline from the right corner for a nifty reverse layup with the clock winding down, the Eagles led by 13 at the break.
And that was with leading scorer Olivier Hanlan (averaging 18.9 PPG coming in) providing only five points -- all on free throws -- and taking only one field goal (a 3, which he missed) in the first 20 minutes.
"The reality of it is, we've gotten ourselves in holes and we've probably gotten some bad habits, relying on [Hanlan] to get us back in the game, which he can do," BC coach Steve Donahue said. "I'd rather us play the team basketball that I know we can play -- four guys in double figures, great assist-to-turnover [ratio], get to the foul line."
This is the kind of effort Donahue has wanted to see all season -- the Eagles took care of the ball (only seven turnovers), shared the ball (19 assists, tied for a season high), took advantage of miscues (24 points off Hokies turnovers) and limited the looks for the visitors (34.0 percent shooting).
Joe Rahon scored 20 points to lead BC past Virginia Tech.
If the Hokies harbored any hopes of rebounding in the second half, they dissipated as soon as the ball went back in play. Anderson hit a jumper, then Hanlan sandwiched two 3s around a stolen inbound pass by Eddie Odio, and suddenly the Eagles were up by 21.
BC led by as many as 30, and the 24-point win was its second largest in ACC play.
Donahue said he thought the Eagles' defensive effort sparked their offensive output Wednesday, when they moved the ball well against the Hokies' zone and finished with a season-high 14 made 3s (on a season-high 37 attempts).
"Unselfishness is kinda contagious. And today we were able to get a lot of open looks and we knocked 'em out," Rahon said. "There's no doubt, the ball always seems to go in more if it's whipped around the perimeter with three or four passes and no dribbles."
It didn't hurt that the Hokies played like a team on a six-game losing streak. Their first shot of the night clanged off the side of the backboard, and it didn't get much better from there.
But at this point, BC will take any win it can get. In fact, if the Eagles could schedule the Hokies a few more times this season they'd jump at the chance.
The win improved BC to 6-14 overall and 2-5 in the ACC, while Virginia Tech dropped to 8-12 overall and 1-7 in the ACC.
Anderson and Rahon both credited the practice time the Eagles got during an eight-day layoff between games for giving them a boost against the Hokies, the only ACC team they've beaten so far this season.
"I think the last eight days, we worked hard, we had success and that builds confidence," Donahue said. "These guys, in my opinion, have done it 'the BC way,' the scoreboard's just not saying that yet. I think they have great character, they're very unselfish.
"Now you get some success that way, it definitely builds on it and it definitely helps you in the next challenge that you have."
And if "the BC way" produces more quick starts like Wednesday's, chances are the scoreboard computations will be at least a little kinder to the Eagles the rest of the way.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.