There are no doubts that this is Olivier Hanlan’s team.
Performing at an incredibly high level, the ACC’s leading scorer carries a talent-deprived Boston College (9-18, 1-14 ACC) squad night after night, often with little help. Although many fans expect Hanlan to be the focal point in each game, contests like Tuesday night’s leave fans wondering if anyone else is even sharing the court with him. Against Pittsburgh (19-10, 8-7 ACC), as Hanlan lifted his game to ever higher standards, his supporting cast appeared to slip on an invisibility cloak. Interior anchor Dennis Clifford got eviscerated in the paint, jack-of-all-trades Patrick Heckmann pulled a rare disappearing act, and the remainder of the squad, save for Aaron Brown, showed a reluctance to even shoot the ball. Hanlan’s season-high 39 points, meanwhile, could not bring his underwhelming teammates to victory.
In the 71-65 loss to Pitt, Hanlan managed to score over 50 percent of his team’s points for the second time in three games. In constant motion all night, he was aggressive from the tip, drilling two early 3-pointers before the first media timeout. Hanlan’s full offensive arsenal was yet again on display, as he managed to burn Pitt’s defense play after play, even while the team knew he was going to shoot.
Part of the credit goes to Jim Christian, whose game plan utilized Hanlan’s great off-the-ball movement to beat increased defensive attention. Cutting backdoor, running off screens or using dribble handoffs, BC’s superstar guard got his shot off quickly and accurately. With a competitive drive that refused to submit, he finished 10-of-20 from the field and 5-of-12 from beyond the arc, despite Pitt being in control all night long. In a clear indicator of his aggressiveness, Hanlan drove into the teeth of the defense countless times, absorbing constant contact en route to a season high 14-of-14 from the charity stripe.
Hanlan’s supernova performance provided perhaps the only bright spot in an otherwise disheartening game for BC. Appearing to have watched Saturday’s BC-Notre Dame game, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon went after the Eagle’s depleted interior defense repeatedly. As if the same play were run on loop, the ball would find its way inside to center Michael Young, who would either score, draw a foul, or attract enough panicked help defense to leave someone else wide open for an easy bucket. Despite being several inches shorter than Clifford, Young proved too strong and too quick for him to guard, finishing with 22 points, a whopping 15 free throw attempts, and four offensive rebounds.
Forward Jamel Artis confounded BC from the tip. The Eagles are normally the team creating a mismatch at the four with Heckmann, but they quickly learned that the script had been flipped. Artis was too strong for Heckmann, forcing Christian to play Eddie Odio for most of the second half. The emerging sophomore finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and 11 free throw attempts of his own. In fact, BC paraded Pitt to the line for 34 attempts, 15 more than its season average. A team normally content to work its offense and subsist on midrange jumpers, Pitt made a concerted effort to expose the Eagles down low.
On the offensive end, the non-Hanlan performances were hardly better. Aaron Brown looked to be aggressive from the opening tip as well, even finishing with a solid 20 points on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting. Despite his scoring totals, Brown racked up six turnovers, a high number considering the amount of time the ball was in Hanlan’s hands during the game. Many of those came on plays where he was overaggressive, dribbling into traffic or barreling into defenders at the rim. Apart from Brown and Hanlan, the rest of the team scored just six points. The supporting cast, particularly Brown, contributed to BC’s 14 turnovers, including an ugly 11 in the first half. In addition, excluding Hanlan, the Eagles shot just 3-of-10 from the free throw line, leaving easy points on the table.
Yet again faced with a team playing for their NCAA Tournament future, the majority of the Eagles played as though they were keenly aware that they had no postseason future. Wearing a giant bullseye on his back all night long, in addition to shouldering his entire team, Hanlan tried to drag the Eagles to their elusive second ACC victory. In the end, even his tireless legs and shooting eventually gave out, with the Eagles claiming the fate faced by all one man stands: resounding defeat.
Photo Courtesy of Heather Tennant / The Pitt News