The Boston College Eagles may have been picked last in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year, but that did not stop them from starting the season the right way out of conference.
On Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum, the Eagles defeated the Florida International Panthers, 84-70. BC basketball opens the season at 1-0, and is the only of the “big three” men’s sports to do so this year.
A game that was fairly close early exploded into an 18-point Boston College lead before the half, slimming down to 16 at the break. During this period, the Eagles played at a much faster offensive tempo than last season, but still struggled with perimeter defense and turned it over a few too many times at seven.
It was in the second half that the Panthers made their move. They boiled a 16-point Boston College lead down to single-digits within minutes of the start, and took advantage of some big BC mistakes to eventually tie the game at 65. FIU never took the lead, though, as the Eagles then went on to score the next 12 points in a row to go ahead 77-65, restoring just enough order to preserve their double-digit victory.
The Eagles were diligent in getting to the free throw line. Florida International took 19 shots from the charity stripe, but Boston College took 39. In a positive development as compared to last year, BC made 30 of them for a 77% shooting percentage.
BC was also aggressive in cutting to the basket, as opposed to 2011-12’s endless passing around the perimeter and then hoisting up a bad shot. The Eagles seemed to exude more confidence in their offense and properly used size to their advantage, both in getting the ball to Dennis Clifford under the basket and corralling rebounds. Boston College outrebounded FIU 44-29, but 15 of those were offensive boards. Ryan Anderson, who set a career-high in points on Sunday, gained eight of those BC offensive rebounds, en route to a total of 17.
Boston College’s three-point shot was not working, as the Eagles went just 2-for-17 (both by Patrick Heckmann on consecutive shots in the first half). Lonnie Jackson was ice-cold from beyond the arc, going 0-for-5 there and scoring no points. On the other hand, FIU did get it going from outside, making nine three-pointers to help keep them in the game until the Eagles eventually pulled away for good.
In addition to Anderson, freshman Olivier Hanlan had a good debut with 12 points, though much of his damage was done in the first half. Joe Rahon had five points and six assists while newcomer Andrew Van Nest had 6 points off the bench. Eddie Odio was a pleasant surprise, making good use of his playing time with 8 points and two offensive rebounds.
The Eagles turned the ball over too much, forking it over 17 times. These sorts of mistakes did not cost them against FIU, but they might against a better caliber of team. Nevertheless, Boston College has some reason for optimism today as the final product for the Eagles was not half-bad. They return to action in Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday afternoon against #19 Baylor.