Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Lockdown Defense Propels Eagles Past Vanderbilt 80–62

Boston College men’s basketball’s mantra is “gritty not pretty,” and the Eagles hang their hats on bringing tenacity, physicality, and resilience on the defensive end. BC probably won’t win without those traits evident.

BC played equally gritty and pretty in its tilt with Vanderbilt Wednesday night inside Memorial Gymnasium. Combined with lockdown defense, the Eagles shot 50 percent from beyond the arc in their dominant performance. 

Behind a strong defensive first half, BC (5–2) silenced Vanderbilt (3–4) in the ACC/SEC Challenge in an 80–62 victory. The Eagles held Vanderbilt to just 23 points in the first half and held a 21-point edge entering the locker room. BC never trailed in the game. 

“We really talked about taking good shots, you know, being sound and trying to be tougher defensively,” BC head coach Earl Grant said of the mindset heading into the game. “I thought today, you know, we were able to come out and do some of those things.”

Quinten Post tallied 24 points, seven boards, and three blocks, while Claudell Harris Jr. poured in 22 points. Ezra Manjon, who returned from a two-game absence, paced the Commodores with 16 points. 

Post got off to a hot start for the Eagles. The seven-footer scored seven of BC’s first 10 points before the first media timeout. The Commodores put Ven-Allen Lubin on Post, but he was no match. The Eagles raced out to a 10–3 lead in the first four minutes. 

“I feel like they played the ball screens very aggressive, which left me open on the top of the key for some shots,” Post said.

Grant shortened his bench a bit in the beginning stages of the game, and the Eagles enjoyed sustained success. A straight away 3-pointer from Post extended BC’s lead to 15–5 with 14:21 remaining in the first half.

BC’s gritty defense—which was nowhere to be found at times in last week’s Hall of Fame Classic against Colorado State and Loyola Chicago—imposed its will on Vanderbilt. Jaeden Zackery set the tone, limiting the Commodores’ leading scorer Manjon to four points in the first eight minutes. 

“The guys were really locked in on the defensive end,” Grant said. “We thought we needed to try to keep them in the 60s to win this game, and we were able to do it.”

BC doubled up Vanderbilt when Prince Aligbe slashed to the basket and converted on a tough finish. Aligbe made his and-1 free throw to give BC a 29–14 advantage with 7:17 left in the first half. 

With 1:56 remaining in the first half, Harris Jr. came off an Armani Mighty screen before canning his third triple of the night. The deep three made it a 40–21 game and restored a 19-point BC lead.

“Nothing was forced,” Harris Jr. said. “Everything was, you know, either QP, me, JZ—everybody was making plays for each other. That’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s how good basketball looks.”

BC even received contributions from the very end of its bench when Elijah Strong buried a putback to send the Eagles into the locker room up 44–23. The Eagles shot 58.1 percent from the field and held Vanderbilt to 28 percent shooting in the first stanza. 

“We needed that offensive rebound that Elijah got with the tip in at the buzzer,” Harris Jr. said. “That was something we needed even though we were up by 19 [or] 21.”

The Eagles continued their dominance after the intermission and maintained a 20-plus point lead throughout the first seven minutes of the second half. Manjon remained the Commodores’ primary threat, and BC led 56–35 at the 11:55 mark. 

BC remained consistent in its approach defensively and limited Vanderbilt’s ability to move the ball at a high level. The Eagles rarely allowed open looks and often forced the Commodores into isolation situations. 

“I thought we had elite communication,” Grant said about BC’s defensive showing. “It really wasn’t nothing special. It was just all the things we have been trying to do all year.”

Vanderbit chipped away and made it 65–52, but Harris Jr. drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the game to reestablish a 16-point advantage. The Commodores continued to hang around, however, and cut the margin back to 13, 68–55, prompting a Grant timeout with 5:04 remaining. 

“They made a run, but, you know, we stabilized it,” Grant said. “With about four or five minutes to go, we stabilized it.”

Vanderbilt didn’t fold, and Tasos Kamateros buried a 3-pointer with 2:53 left to cut the BC lead to 71–60. Mason Madsen delivered a dagger corner 3-pointer, however, to rebuild the Eagles’ lead to 14, and a few free throws put the finishing touches on the victory for BC.

November 30, 2023