The BC Eagles basketball team was outclassed and outgunned yesterday afternoon at the TD Garden, falling to the UMass Minutemen 86-73. With Dennis Clifford still nursing an injury, 6 foot 10, 250 pounder Cady Lalanne destroyed BC in the post, posting 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds. The makeup of the crowd was almost as disappointing as the outcome: UMass seemed to have about a 10-1 crowd advantage only a stone’s throw away from Chestnut Hill. Although there was a hockey game being played simultaneously, I was dismayed to see the lack of fan and student participation at what should have been a great event. My takeaways:
1- Donahue’s Choir Boys: UMass entered this game like it was a rivalry game. Before tip-off, Guard Chaz Williams led the team to center court with his arms waiving and his chest high. He knows that UMass has a chance to go dancing this year, and this could be a closely looked at outcome on Selection Sunday. But, more importantly, it seemed personal. To Williams and the rest of the Minutemen basketball team, they just wanted to beat their intra-state rivals. And it reflected in their play. Even when BC took the lead, UMass pushed the ball quickly up the floor and aggressively attacked the rim against a small BC defense. Williams did his best Tyrese Rice impression, going 5-5 from beyond the arc and shooting with an irrational confidence. BC, on the other hand, looked flat, lifeless and stagnant. No one wanted to take an open shot and there was not a soul on that team who seemed to be taking the loss as personally as UMass was taking the win. Donahue has constructed his team with a group of high character, team-first guys. An admirable approach, but one that can back fire. BC needed a Tyrese Rics or a Sean Williams or even a Reggie Jackson last night. Someone who would have made it their mission to take over one side of the ball and give the team a much needed energy boost. Swagger, if you will. But BC just doesn’t have that guy. They are going to be patient and try to bleed other teams to death until Hanlan or Anderson can hoist an open shot. Duke has won National Championships with this approach and Donahue was very successful with it at Cornell. But sometimes, part of finding your “diamond in the rough” recruits is taking a chance on someone who might need some polishing. Otherwise, you might not have anyone able to put the team on his back when the team needs a lift.
2- Donahue’s Defense: I hate to keep hammering a coach when he did not log a minute on the court, but something has got to change defensively. Playing mostly a standard man-to-man defense, BC was once again hammered in the post losing the rebounding battle 44-27, including a staggering 21-9 on the offensive boards. Yet, Donahue refused to switch to a zone or press defense until the game was out of reach. BC clearly didn’t have an answer for UMass big men Lalanne and Sampson Carter, but Donahue did not budge. He kept Odio and Dragicevich defending the 5 and UMass kept scoring, especially in the 2nd half. If Clifford is going to remain out, something needs to change. BC cannot keep losing the rebound battle by double digits and expect to win the game, especially when you give the other team 21 second chances on the offensive end.
3- Getting to the Stripe: One thing I thought BC did well was effectively attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. With the new hand check calls, free throws are going to be a very key part to any team’s success this year. BC shot a respectable 77% against UMass and was able to get some shots close to the basket in the first half. I especially liked Dragicevich facing up against slower defenders. But like the rest of his team, he seemed to tighten up in the second half, passing up open shots and not knowing what to do with the ball when he was near the hoop. BC’s offense needs patience but it also needs to know when to put up an open shot.
4- Tourney Tracker: This could prove to be another fatal loss on BC’s schedule come the end of the year. While many predict that UMass will be at the top of the Atlantic 10 along with VCU and Saint Louis, if they end up on the bubble with a similar resume to BC, this game could tilt the scales especially because it was played on a neutral court. But before we talk bubble, we have to talk wins. BC needs to start winning games in order to reach that desired 20-22 win total. They had a chance to beat two very respectable teams early in the year and so far they are 0-2. BC absolutely needs to beat Toledo and FAU before facing UConn. Otherwise, this section may change to the “NIT Tourney Tracker.”
There was not much good that came out of yesterday’s loss. Some idiot who will remain nameless thought that Hanlan and Anderson had the potential to be the next Dudley and Smith. But as of right now, they seem incapable of living up to expectations.