“The only thing you can hope for after the first game is to be 1-0.”
That quote from Coach Jim Christian’s first post game press conference just about sums up Friday night’s matchup against UNH. The Christian era began with a win, but it wasn’t pretty. BC struggled to get anything going offensively against UNH, shooting just 35.8% from the field and a dismal 1-19 from three. Ball movement provided the Eagles with plenty of open shots, most of which would not find the net.
The first half of the home opener in Conte Forum looked like a first half of a first game in every way conceivable. It was a strange atmosphere, with loose pockets of fans and an entirely sedentary student section doing little to rattle the visiting Bobcats. The Eagles’ first field goal did not come until the 12:25 mark of the first half, after UNH jumped out to an early lead. The first game jitters were evident; shots were desperately grasping for a piece of the rim and an unusually high number of travelling violations were called.
The bright spot was Dennis Clifford. The seven-foot center made his first healthy appearance in over a year and looked quite spry on the court, challenging shots and cleaning up the boards. It was evident that Christian was actively seeking to get Clifford touches in the post. Though the big man struggled to find the range on his hook shot, his footwork and positioning were reassuring. If he is able to get it going over the next few games, significant pressure will be taken off Hanlan to provide and the Eagles will be able to use the pick and roll game more effectively.
Last season, the BC offense started with Olivier Hanlan. Friday night, Hanlan started just 1-6 from the field and the rest of the team followed suit, unable to pull away from the pesky Bobcats. Hanlan is such a dynamic player that if he cannot get it going, it almost seems like no one can, and when no one else can, he has to press the issue. It’s a vicious cycle that will ultimately hurt the Eagles in the long run. BC will need some other guys to be able to have an impact when Hanlan struggles.
Friday night, this other guy was new addition, graduate student Aaron Brown. “His experience and leadership were big during that stretch,” said coach Christian of Brown’s consistency in the first half. After short stints at Temple and SMU, Brown landed at BC this summer with the intent to make an impact right away in his BC career. Brown finished as the leading scorer with 21 points and seems most poised to take on the role of Hanlan’s running mate, as he took over most of the ball handling duties when Hanlan went to the bench and provided the bump in scoring that the Eagles so desperately needed.
BC’s next game will be this Sunday against UMASS at the TD Garden in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. UMASS was an NCAA tournament team last season and if BC hopes to come away with a win, they will have to get the offense on track right from the tip. Against UNH, they got away with the slow start purely off size and talent, but UMASS will be much less forgiving if the Eagles come out cold.
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