Recently, Jaeden Zackery has not been living up to his role as Boston College men’s basketball’s second-leading scorer at 10.9 points per game. Zackery was quiet in the Eagles’ upset win over then-No. 21 Virginia Tech on Dec. 21, notching only six points, and in BC’s second-half collapse against Syracuse on New Year’s Eve, the sophomore guard registered just three points on 1-of-9 shooting.
“After the Syracuse game, we took the lead with 11 minutes to go,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “[Zackery] beat himself up that we didn’t win the game. He thought he could help us more.”
After about 30 minutes of BC’s contest against Notre Dame on Tuesday, it appeared as if Zackery would remain without his scoring mojo, as he sported a statline of four points and remained invisible on the offensive end.
But with 10 minutes left to play, Zackery regained his stride, pouring in 14 points and orchestrating a 17–4 run for BC (8–7, 2–2 Atlantic Coast) to close out the game and top the Fighting Irish (8–7, 0–4) 70–63.
“You’re a great player,” Grant said to Zackery after the game. “Proud of him, the way he bounced back today.”
The Eagles didn’t lead until 1:43 was left in the game, largely because their first-half defense was not up to par with Grant’s “gritty not pretty” slogan.
BC let up 38 first-half points as Notre Dame’s Dane Goodwin dominated the scoring. Goodwin recorded 15 first-half points on 3-of-3 shooting from behind the arc. JJ Starling added 12 first-half points, including two 3-pointers.
“We weren’t as communicative as we needed to be,” Grant said. “We broke down and gave them some open threes.”
In his second game back from a foot injury that’s kept him out all season, Quinten Post checked in less than four minutes into the game and made an immediate difference, notching two quick layups. But his lack of conditioning showed, as Post struggled to stay in front of Sterling and Goodwin on back-to-back switch plays, resulting in two Fighting Irish layups late in the first half.
“They [Notre Dame] tried to pick on him,” Grant said. “They knew he was coming off of a foot injury, so when we switched, they would drive on him.”
The second half told a different story. Grant made adjustments that focused on Notre Dame’s 3-point shooting and Post’s weaknesses on switches.
“Second half, we let him [Post] come out and bring two to the ball and get back to his man so he wouldn’t get stuck to a guard,” Grant said.
And Grant’s adjustments proved successful.
Goodwin didn’t net a 3-pointer for the rest of the game, and BC’s defensive unit looked sharper, holding the Fighting Irish to 31.3 percent shooting from behind the arc in the second half.
“Grant comes in every half and tells us what we can do better on offense and defense, especially defense,” DeMarr Langford Jr. said. “There was definitely an emphasis, guarding shooters, rebounding to make sure they get one shot.”
Langford Jr., who tallied eight assists in the game, recently made the switch from small forward to point guard. His transition—along with Post’s return—has caused more players to be involved in the scoring mix.
“It opened up a lot,” Zackery said of Post’s return. “We play through him a lot. So being able to have him back, spread out the court the way he can, that’s how I got a lot of my layups. I drive, he’d seal somebody off, and it left it open for me.”
Four Eagles—Zackery, Post, Prince Aligbe, and Makai Ashton-Langford—reached double figures in the game.
Zackery recorded his 12th point of the night with a driving layup to tie the game at 52 apiece with just under six minutes left.
But it was Mason Madsen, who was shooting 30 percent from the field entering Tuesday’s game, that powered BC ahead of the Fighting Irish for the first time all game with a mid-range jumper with 1:43 left to play.
“Mason Madsen, Makai and JZ can focus on scoring for us, and then DeMarr can facilitate,” Grant said.
Having so many viable options readily available is new for Grant. Post’s second night back on the floor resulted in 10 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks, while Ashton-Langford and freshman Aligbe totaled 12 and 15 points, respectively, in the win. Players such as Devin McGlockton and CJ Penha Jr.—who have been pillars of Grant’s rotation this season—have had to take a step back.
“We just gotta do what’s best for the team,” Grant said. “Guys will have to sacrifice and be humble enough to understand we’re just doing what’s best for the team.”
With 20 seconds left, Aligbe nailed two free throws to put BC up 68–61, and the Eagles locked up their second conference win of the season.