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BC Men’s Basketball Uses A New Gameplan To Beat Marist

In the second half of a matchup against Marist Monday night, guard Aaron Brown of the Boston College men’s basketball team had two potentially game-defining plays. The first came off a steal from Will Magarity, who lobbed the ball up to a streaking Brown for an open-court slam. The dunk brought the BC bench and crowd to their feet, opening up a 13-point lead and forcing Marist coach Jack Bower to take a timeout.

The second play came just 30 seconds later, when another Magarity steal and dish to Brown began as an instant replay to the first. With a man on his heels, however, Brown rimmed out on the open dunk attempt.

While this likely “Not Top 10” play would rattle some players, Brown remained unfazed. Following a media timeout, he charged through Marist’s defense and finished on a lay-in, extending BC’s lead to 15. Brown and fellow graduate student Dimitri Batten made sure their team finished strong, combining for 36 points as the Eagles rolled to a 79-61 win.

The first place to look on the post-game stat sheet should be 3-pointers, the Eagles’ Achilles heel so far this season. The squad came into Monday’s game shooting an abysmal .198 from beyond the arc—tied with Syracuse for worst in the ACC. Even BC’s top scorer, Olivier Hanlan, came into the contest at just a .222 clip, more than 100 points below his career average.

The tone changed from the beginning, as BC started the game with two successful 3-pointers. The two combined to go 6-10 from deep, as the team rose to a respectable 8-20 on the night.

“We’ve been getting good looks and not knocking them down,” said Brown. “We’re all happy that we started to make some threes.”

While Brown and Batten heated up, Hanlan—the ACC’s third-leading scorer this season—stayed cool. He took just eight shots, a season-low, and finished the game with nine points. This broke a streak of 16 games in which Hanlan had reached double-digits in points, dating back to a Feb. 1 game against Notre Dame last season.

That isn’t necessarily to say he couldn’t have scored. Rather, he filled a different role: a playmaker. On several occasions, Hanlan drove past his defender, and instead of trying to go through another defender to the rim, he kicked out to an open man on the perimeter. Thanks to BC’s duo of hot hands, Hanlan set a career high in assists, tallying nine on the night.

Although not his usual self, Hanlan using his speed and athleticism to create shots for his teammates increases the flexibility of BC’s offense. On the other hand, head coach Jim Christian should make sure that his top producer doesn’t abandon his natural role. “Feeding the hot hand” can be effective, but watching your best scorer pass up uncontested jumpers—as he did a couple times on Monday—is slightly unsettling.

Meanwhile, the inside game proved tricky for BC most of the night. Seven-foot-one center Dennis Clifford looked out-matched for much of the night, going 0-5 from the field against Marist’s 2-3 zone. His center counterpart  Eric Truog was 5-5, easily forcing Clifford back down in the paint through the night.

As the game progressed, BC stepped up the inside pressure. While the big men still struggled to finish around the rim, they managed to draw fouls, getting to the line with far greater regularity.

“In the last ten minutes of the game, I thought both Dennis and Will started playing the way they play in practice,” Christian said. “They started getting more deep, finishing plays, playing a little more aggressive. In the first half, they got great position and went up soft: they’re going to be key ingredients for us.”

At end, Christian should be pleased his team finally held a lead. After holding double-digit advantages in four of its first five games, BC allowed all to be cut to single digits, losing two of them. In this game, however, the Eagles never let Marist back within 10 points, playing their most consistent basketball of the year and controlling almost the entire second half on their way to a win.

With ACC competition just over a month away, BC needs to find a way to bring everything together. Although they may not find themselves playing with as many large leads, the Eagles will rely on their veterans, star, and big men to produce on a more consistent basis. They’ll need everything to click if they want to hang with some of the best teams in the country.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff

December 2, 2014