Skinner: Players 'more confident' after UNC win

February 22, 2010 - 7:57 am
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The changes on the court for Boston College have been noticeable. But it is the adjustment in his team'€™s attitude that is more encouraging for coach Al Skinner. While the biggest story to emerge from Saturday'€™s 71-67 victory over North Carolina '€” it brought the defending national champs' record to 14-13 (3-9 ACC) and moved BC back to .500 at 13-13 (4-8 ACC) '€” was the reinsertion of Reggie Jackson back into the starting lineup, Skinner was pleased by the overall change in the way his team played. '€œI just felt that we were a lot more patient,'€ he said in the ACC coaches teleconference Monday morning. '€œOur execution had improved [down the stretch].'€ The Eagles were able to maintain their composure even as the Tar Heels kept clawing away at the lead, threatening in the final minutes by cutting the deficit to as little as two points before a bucket by Rakim Sanders with 1:20 left gave BC breathing room down the stretch. For a team that had a habit of losing close games as of late '€” four of the last five losses for the Eagles came by seven points or less '€” the difference in play down the stretch was apparent, and it was a key reason why BC was able to end its four-game losing streak. '€œI thought we executed, we were patient and we got the shots that we wanted,'€ Skinner said. '€œAnd we played with a focus but we didn'€™t play in a hurry, and that was important. As a team I thought we were a little more confident in what we were doing and what to expect from each other.'€ The changes on the court, however, certainly played their part. Jackson'€™s presence (as Biko Paris was moved to the bench) helped BC keep pace early in the game, as he earned assists on the Eagles'€™ first four field goals of the day. Just as he continues to acclimate to the point guard spot, Jackson'€™s transition to the starting lineup was seamless, as he finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. '€œThe reason for the [lineup] change was we have been starting off each half a little slow,'€ Skinner said. '€œIt really wasn'€™t a reflection on Biko himself; I just think we needed the change, and plus we had a week off and we had a chance to make a couple of adjustments in what we were doing.'€ An increase in the contribution from sophomore Evan Ravenel also has made a difference. After playing a season-high 18 minutes in the 62-47 loss to Florida State, Ravenel made up for a lackluster showing from the other BC big men by scoring eight points and grabbing four boards Saturday off the bench, including a thunderous putback jam down the stretch to help the Eagles hold their lead. Though the win over UNC isn'€™t as impressive as in years past, it still has given given the Eagles a confidence boost as they head into the final four games of their schedule before the ACC tournament. Though Skinner says the team never lacked confidence, he is seeing a focus from his team that had not been there earlier in the year as the season winds down. '€œWe were kind of in a maze and going every which way,'€ he said. '€œNow there may be a little more focus and a little better direction on where we are headed. And because of that I think guys are more confident in what their potential really is.'€ The Eagles look to earn their first back-to-back victories since December when they host Virginia Tech on Wednesday. The Hokies always are a tough matchup for Skinner'€™s team, with games routinely going down to the wire between the two squads, including Tech'€™s 63-62 victory on Jan. 23. BC will need to play like it did in the second half against UNC, and not like in the debacle against FSU two weeks ago when it turned a 30-30 halftime score into a 15-point loss. '€œWe'€™ve just got to finish the game,'€ said Skinner about his team'€™s chances against the Hokies, who are third in the ACC with a 8-4 conference record, (19-7 overall.) '€œWe didn'€™t really played a full 40 minutes [in the first meeting] and because of that we came up a little short.'€ What the potential Skinner mentioned spells for this season'€™s team remains to be seen. It will be a tall order for the Eagles to make the NCAA tournament or even the NIT with their 13-13 mark. But after Saturday, Jackson said the team believes it has a shot to make a run in the ACC tourney and earn a trip to the Big Dance. To do so, the Eagles will need to continue to play with the poise and patience Skinner saw on Saturday.

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