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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Donahue Displays New And Improved

Asst. Sports Editor

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01


Graham Beck / Heights Editor

As his teammate hit the floor, Olivier Hanlan ran right at Florida International’s Malik Smith underneath the baseline with some choice words for his opponent. Sophomore forward Ryan Anderson had just taken a rough flagrant foul with the game tied 65-65 midway through the second half, and Boston College’s newest freshman guard wasn’t having any of it.

“I just didn’t like the foul that they did on Ryan,” Hanlan said. “It was a pretty hard foul, so I just wanted to step up for him.”

Anderson hopped right up the second he hit the deck and Hanlan got pulled away from Smith before he got a technical foul, but the rookie had done his job. He brought some fire that this squad missed last year. The Eagles only allowed two FIU buckets for the rest of the game as they went on a 19-5 run to secure an 84-70 victory in their season opener yesterday afternoon at Conte Forum.

“I think that just kind of showed how much of a family we are,” Anderson said.

Whereas some coaches wouldn’t want to risk a technical in that situation, head coach Steve Donahue loved the intensity he saw from Hanlan on that play.

“The one thing that we’ve always tried to get across to these guys is that—they’re such nice kids,” Donahue said. “And maybe that got them angry and that snapped them in.

“With this group, we need that. We’ve talked about that. These kids are so darn coachable, almost to a fault. They follow to the T—the stuff [Ryan] was saying was verbatim what I say. Sometimes I want them to just say, ‘Screw the coach. Let’s guard and let’s do what we have to to get it done.’ You know? And I think you’re starting to see a little bit of that in them. “
It was a hectic 40 minutes of basketball, with FIU running full-court presses and half-court traps the whole game, but the Eagles, powered by Hanlan and fellow freshman guard Joe Rahon, found ways to break the pressure and get easy looks.

“They had some good guards out there that were pressuring us, so it was a lot easier for me and Joe and all of the other guards to try and blow by and dish the ball to Ryan or Dennis,” Hanlan said. “It was kind of easy after a while.”

At times in the first half, it looked like BC would blow out FIU, but a few sloppy turnovers and some poor defensive play allowed the Golden Panthers to close the gap.

“There were times where it looked like we were going to blow them out, and there were times where we couldn’t stop them,” Donahue said. “What I do really think was important was I noticed a little difference from last year’s attitude when the team would do that.”

Last season, BC would fold in the last five minutes when the game was close. That didn’t happen this time. They finally played lock-down defense against the FIU pick and roll that confused them all game and found easy scores against the Golden Panther zone.

“We knew that was the challenge going in, just speaking to teams that had played them in scrimmages,” Donahue said of the FIU pick and roll. They’ve got all the guys that are the same size. They all go off the bounce. There were times where we just switched everything, and it was okay. Then they started burning us on that. Then we got back to really being aggressive with it and kind of mixed results. At the end of the day, I thought the last 10 minutes of the game we did a really good job on that. But for us, we can’t allow penetration.”

Sophomore center Dennis Clifford only saw 18 minutes of action, since FIU’s lineup of players all below 6-foot-6 made him a liability in the pick and roll game. Instead, Harvard transfer Andrew Van Nest saw significant minutes down the stretch due to his ability to hedge hard on the screens and then recover so as not to give up open shots. Clifford will be a key factor against most other teams, but the Golden Panthers took him out of his element.

“I’m very happy for [Van Nest],” Donahue said. “He’s playing relaxed. We kept him out there tonight because I thought he had pretty good idea on both sides of the ball against those smaller guys—whereas Dennis was really good on offense at times, but I think he was jumping around too much on the defensive end. I thought Andrew gave us that tonight.”

The BC offense was powered by Anderson’s 29 points (on 16 shots) and 17 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end. The forward found gaps in the FIU zone over and over again leading to easy baskets.

“I think Coach D and our scouting for the game made the real emphasis just to get paint touches,” Anderson said. “He made a comment like we basically get a point every time we get a paint touch because it’s so destructive for a zone defense like that. So I just took it upon myself being a guy that can play around the basket to just kind of make my living in there for the game finding spots for me and for others.”

Hanlan and Rahon kept finding their big man in the middle of the zone, and Anderson kept finishing. The Eagles already passed their highest point total from last season, which came against Sacred Heart when they put up 83. It was a unique game against a unique type of team the Eagles probably won’t see again, but BC already looks significantly better than it did last season and, more importantly, those strides came in an opening game victory.

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