Skinner: 'We are trying to emerge'

February 01, 2010 - 8:05 am
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Despite coming off a frustrating loss Saturday at Conte Forum against Florida State, Boston College coach Al Skinner and the Eagles are upbeat about their recent efforts. But despite a noticeable difference in BC'€™s play at the end of January in comparison to a disastrous three-game stretch that featured three blowout losses to Clemson, Duke and Maryland earlier in the month, the Eagles' improvement has translated to just a 2-2 record in their last four games. It is no wonder, then, that Skinner feels this team'€™s best play has yet to come. '€œThere is still a lot of opportunity for us to kind of re-emerge, if you want to say, or emerge. I don'€™t think we have done that yet, so I guess we are trying to emerge and there is plenty of opportunity there if we continue to play well,'€ Skinner said Monday during the ACC coaches teleconference. '€œAnd our play has improved, I think. We are excited about that factor, so I think it'€™s going to maintain itself.'€ This past Saturday, the Eagles held the lead over the Seminoles for much of the second half despite getting just eight points from Reggie Jackson, who had come in with a hot hand. But Seminoles guard Derwin Kitchen hit a key 3-pointer in the final minute of the game to leave BC (12-10, 3-5 ACC) empty-handed. While Skinner and the Eagles were left frustrated in a game in which they attempted just four free throws, there were a few bright spots on the day. Most notable amongst them was the play of Rakim Sanders, who is still not 100 percent after an ankle injury forced him to miss time earlier this season. Many people were expecting a breakout campaign for Sanders in his third year at the Heights, and it looks like he might finally be showing those flashes after his 17-point performance on Saturday. He has looked more aggressive and confident in his play as of late, although Skinner said the injury has caused a noticeable difference in his play from last season. '€œI would say he is about 80 percent,'€ Skinner said. '€œIf you'€™ve seen him play last year, you can recognize how explosive he was. He really has not been the same guy really this year, and that'€™s hurt him some because he'€™s always been a physical player and it has curtailed how aggressive he would like to be.'€ The Eagles will have a full week to dwell on the loss to Florida State before Duke rolls into Conte Forum on Saturday. Last year'€™s win at home over the Blue Devils, who were the No. 5 team in the nation, was one of the catalysts in helping BC reach the NCAA tournament, and the Eagles also played the Blue Devils tough in a 66-65 loss in the first round of the ACC tournament. But that resume, which included a win over No. 1 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, was undoubtedly more impressive than this year'€™s, and the Eagles were dominated in the second half after playing Duke close early in a 79-59 loss on Jan. 13 in Durham. While last week'€™s win over Clemson was a nice feather in BC's cap, time is running out for the Eagles to pick up some more signature wins that will allow them to be in the discussion when the NCAA selection committee convenes in March. Skinner and the Eagles saw the beginnings of a turnaround in that game against Duke and will look for another upset at home to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. '€œWell, again, that was the first game that our bench really came in and gave us a lift, so we were obviously pleased about that," Skinner said. "So, we just want to try to continue doing what we have been doing. As I said, I think our play has improved and I think guys have started to understand what their roles are going to be and are really trying to fulfill them." BC has to hope that it will be facing the league-leading Blue Devils (17-4, 5-2 ACC) at the right time. Duke is coming off an 89-77 loss to Georgetown and will face a tough Georgia Tech team Thursday. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski knows that teams always are gunning to beat his club, and Saturday should be no exception. '€œThe thing is, over the last 25 years for us we usually get an energetic team playing against us, especially on the road,'€ Krzyzewski said about his team'€™s loss at Georgetown. '€œBecause people want to beat us, they want to beat me, they want to beat Duke, and you have to match that.'€