After a hot-and-cold--and more often cold than hot--start, Boston College men’s basketball pulled away from Fairfield for a 72-64 win Sunday afternoon in Conte Forum. The Langford brothers carried the scoring load for Boston College in the first half and finished the game with a combined 33 points.
Makai Ashton-Langford had a hot hand, particularly behind the arc. He drained three of his four attempts from three-point range in the first half and finished the game with 17 points on 6-9 shooting from the field.
Demarr Langford Jr. also knocked down some spectacular shots, including a highly-contested turnaround jumper from the deep midrange. Unfortunately, he struggled at times with his shot selection and threw up a few ugly airballs as well. Still, he came away with 16 points and the highlight of the game. Langford Jr. leaped in the air and slammed down an alley-oop from Jaeden Zackery. Langford Jr. was fouled on the poster dunk and converted the and-one to give BC a double-digit lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The Eagles struggled as a team with shot selection in the first half but improved significantly after the break. After only shooting 40 percent from the field in the first half, they shot 65 percent in the second half. BC head coach Earl Grant attributed the change to using the whole shot clock to work for better shots instead of settling for what Fairfield was giving them with 13 seconds left on the shot clock.
“A bad shot is like a turnover,” Grant said. “That’s something you gotta do in high school, college, pro, you have to take care of the ball and get good shots. I think that’s something that’s always going to be a challenge to get your team to understand that.”
The Eagles’ perimeter defense was one of their strong suits in the game. They consistently clogged the passing lanes and prevented the Stags from using their ball movement to set up clear looks from behind the arc. Their obstruction of the passing lanes led to nine steals, which they converted into 17 points in transition.
“Our main focus was defense coming into this game. We know our offense can spread the court and play how we know how to, but defense was big because we had a plan for each player, especially [Jake Wojcik], but then [Taj Benning] came out and we had to change our game plan,” Zackery said.
Zackery was particularly tenacious on defense. His three steals set up fast breaks that gave him easy opportunities for assists. He capitalized on these opportunities and finished the game with six steals and one turnover.
“A lot of our offense is made for a point guard, and I’m enjoying that... Makai was knocking down a lot of shots, so that’s where I got a lot of my assists from. That’s not even me, that’s a lot of the team and coaching the game plan,” Zackery said.
TJ Bickerstaff looked like a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Bickerstaff was able to fight through contact on several occasions in order to get some tough, momentum-building buckets for his team. Notably, Bickerstaff ran through the Fairfield defense on the baseline before slamming down an emphatic dunk to jump-start a 9-0 run for the Eagles in the first half.
The BC interior defense, however, was another story. While the Stags only had 16 points in the paint, they got plenty of good looks. While the number on the scoreboard at the end of the game is all that matters, the number did not reflect the quality of close shots Fairfield was able to get off close to the rim. Struggles in the paint are something that could be concerning when the Eagles face teams with big, strong men in the future.
Free throws nearly cost BC the game in the final minutes. The Eagles missed four consecutive free throws and gave the ball back to the Stags with the chance to cut the gap to 4 points with a minute to play. Yet Fairfield missed their shot at the other end to allow BC to keep their lead at 7 points.
Boston College (3-0) will follow their victory up with a trip to the University of Rhode Island Wednesday. The matchup could potentially be the first of two against the Rams this week, as both teams will be traveling to Daytona Beach, Florida for the Sunshine Slam tournament Saturday and Sunday.
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