It was a big weekend for the Boston College men’s basketball team as the program had two games on its slate: Central Connecticut State and the team's first real test, Harvard.
These would be the second and third games of the young season, and would point to the direction this team is headed. To Coach Christian and SuperFans’ delight, that direction is up—way up.
Game 1: Central Connecticut State University
Given how power conference teams construct their schedules, it is hard to believe that the Eagles haven’t won their first two games of the season in six years, but that streak ended Thursday night. BC confidently handled Central Connecticut State by a score of 82-57, making the Eagles 2-0 for the first time since the Al Skinner era.
For the second time in as many games, freshman Jerome Robinson had a very solid performance. Since his first performance, he said that “everything is kind of slowing down for me.” Robinson finished with 18 points on 7-11 shooting, to go along with 4 boards, 4 assists and 3 steals.
Eli Carter admittedly had a rough night, starting 0-7 from the floor. The point guard said that when his shots didnt’t fall in the first, he focused on distributing and creating offense. Carter ended the night with a strong second half, leaving him with 18 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and, most importantly, 0 turnovers—great true point guard play from one of the old guys on this young roster.
As a team, the Eagles were far better on closing out on jump shots and blocking out on the defensive end. They also had a far better turnover margin. Garland Owens played stronger than he did in game one, where he seemed to have trouble hitting teammates on backdoor cuts. Owens had two assists and no turnovers on the night.
With about six minutes to go in the second, the Eagles pushed the lead to 28, so a few of the walk-ons got their first taste of NCAA Basketball. It was a great sight to see in a good win.
Game 2: Harvard
You can make this game about Boston bragging rights, call it a rivalry, or do whatever you would like to add drama and flare, but for Coach Christian and company, that isn’t what this contest was. Christian emphasized that this game was an opportunity to compete against a team that has made five consecutive NCAA tournaments, and boy did his guys show up.
The Eagles came into Sunday afternoon’s contest against the Crimson ready to face their first real test of the season, and they passed with 69-56 win.
For the first time all year, the Eagles faced some reasonable adversity. BC couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half. Three of their main offensive threats, Dennis Clifford, Jerome Robinson and Eli Carter, went a combined 0-11 in the first half. This resulted in the extraordinarily young team being down 16-20 at the break.
The second half of this game was one of the most impressive stretches BC basketball had played in a while. Last year, the Eagles had a habit of keeping games close for the first half, only to have more talented teams make adjustments at halftime and outplay them in the second half. Sunday, great coaching and an impressive ability to adjust led to the team to explode and register 53 points in the second.
Carter found his stroke to the tune of 15 points after the break, and Ervins Meznieks exploded for a trio of three-pointers and 12 total points. The best offensive weapon the Eagles had was freshman Matt Milon. He finished with 16 on 4-6 from long range, a nifty transition lay in and a perfect trip to the line. Christian said after the game that Matt was “playing so well tonight. He had 25 [minutes and] we would have liked to get him 35.”
However he followed this by saying that this doesn’t make Matt the team’s nightly second or third scoring option. Christian loves the team’s depth and said “Tonight was Matt’s night. The next game might be somebody else’s opportunity. The next game might be a Garland game,” emphasizing the need to not play with a formula or agenda but to look at the opponent and adjust accordingly.
To summarize, BC followed its putrid 16-20 first half with a dominant 53-36 second to defeat Harvard and continue its trend upward as the season progresses. As Christian called it, this was “a big step” for this young team.
Clifford had 12 rebounds against Harvard and played what Coach said was “as hard as Dennis has played since I’ve been here.”
Against Harvard, Idy Diallo fouled out in under ten minutes for the second time this year. This time it took six minutes.
Eli Carter has gone two consecutive games without a first half bucket. That is a combined 0-13.
After shooting 31 percent from the line against CCSU, Christian labeled FT shooting “something we will have to address.” The team shot nearly 80 percent against the Crimson.
The Eagles will fly to California to take part in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. Their first matchup will be Thursday at 6:30 on ESPN2 against No. 13 Michigan State.