The Three-Pointer: BC Bounces Back Against Bryant

December 20, 2009 - 7:47 pm
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CHESTNUT HILL -- One of the best ways to break a slump is to beat up on an opponent that cannot get out of its own way. That was the case Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum as Boston College took advantage of winless Bryant en route to a 72-46 victory. The end result was not predicated so much on BC dominance but rather that Bryant looked like a hapless basketball squad whose turnover count battled its total points count for a good portion of the game. The game for Bryant started with two ugly turnovers by sophomore forward Papa Lo and degenerated from there, as the Bulldogs had trouble making crisp passes, knocking down shots or generally achieving any cohesion on the floor. The Eagles did not need to be spectacular to take advantage, though they were efficient enough to secure the easy victory. "Basically you have two teams that were struggling," BC coach Al Skinner said. "Our situation was a little different than theirs, but still, it was two teams that were struggling. We just happened to have a little more talent than them and that was the difference in the ball game." Skinner has said in the past that when the Eagles keep opponents under 40 percent field goal shooting, his team will usually win. He was disappointed by the defensive effort after the losses to Harvard and Rhode Island but thought he saw an improved performance against Bryant, especially in the first half, when BC held the Bulldogs to 16 points on 15 turnovers. For the game, Bryant shot 16-for-48 for 33.3 percent. "I think defensively, I liked the effort that we had, I thought we were active and I thought we rebounded the ball well," Skinner said. "We are still not where we would like it to be but the defensive end, the area we really wanted to concentrate on, that was extremely important for us." The improved defense paid off for the Eagles in the key categories of turnovers and field goal percentage, and the offense had enough of a talent edge over the Bulldogs to lead to an easy victory. "I think guys were more aware of their surroundings than they have been," Skinner said. "I think our team defense was better and I was pleased with that effort and I am pleased with that. It has to improve but I think we are getting back to where we were a few games ago." Here are three other things we learned from the blowout . . . . THE EAGLES TURNED TO A SMALL - AND TALENTED - STARTING FIVE In terms of talent, the five best players that BC has are junior forwards Corey Raji and Joe Trapani, junior guards Biko Paris and Rakim Sanders and sophomore guard Reggie Jackson. Skinner employed that lineup for much of the game against Rhode Island last Sunday and when it came time to name the starting five against Bryant, those were the players who comprised the group. Left out of that lineup was usual starting center junior Josh Southern, who had started 44 straight games (34 last year, 10 this year). Southern played 14 minutes with two points and six rebounds. Besides for having the most talent on the squad, the change of lineup was focused on the fact that Bryant did not have a lot of team size and neither do BC's upcoming opponents, notably UMass on Wednesday. "The teams that we are going to be playing are smaller teams and I think it is clear that we have struggled a little bit in some games against the smaller lineups," Skinner said. "I think this, in terms of a defensive standpoint was going to be effective for us and we thought today that it worked for us and we are going to stay with it for a while." The logic proved to be sound as the forwards, Raji and Trapani, led the team in scoring and rebounds while also being the most active players around the ball all afternoon. Trapani recorded a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Raji added 20 points and eight rebounds to lead the charge. "We will still go with a more traditional lineup through the course of the game but I wanted to have this flexibility to be able to do this," Skinner said. Trapani took the opening tip and, for the most part, was matched up on the opposing center/power forward. "As a coach I thought I was getting a little rigid in what I was going to do," Skinner said. "There was no flexibility because I was staying pretty rigid. Now this allows me to bring a little bit of more flexibility that I don't think we have utilized enough." When senior captain Tyler Roche comes back from his injured back, he will probably come off the bench as the sixth man in this rotation, further adding to the flexibility that Skinner is looking to attain. "He brought me into the office and sat me down and started to go over plays with me and asked if I would feel comfortable [playing] the four, and I said I would do whatever the team needs me to do to win games," Raji said. "Fortunately it worked tonight and we were happy with the outcome of the game." TRAPANI THOUGHT BIG WHILE PLAYING A DIFFERENT POSITION Skinner had been upset with the effort level that BC showed in recent games, and it seemed that Trapani took the coach's criticism to heart on Sunday afternoon. The junior played 29 minutes and stayed in for just about the entire game before he was pulled for good with the contest well in hand at the 7:44 mark in the second half. Trapani added three steals and four blocks to round out the performance. Though playing at the five spot in the rotation, Trapani stayed within his normal style of play -- getting after loose balls in the paint, moving to the perimeter on offense and being an overall nuisance to the opposition. "I was aware from the other coaches that I would be playing the five for this game," Trapani said. "They were a smaller team and I thought I was able to defend the five spot . . . it was more of a mental thing for me. Getting fired up and being in the right position to defend these guys and not letting them get comfortable." THE EAGLES ARE STILL LOOKING FOR THEIR RANGE The last three games have not been kind to the Eagles' perimeter offense. They were a decent 5-for-13 from the 3-point line against Harvard, 3-for-17 against Rhode Island and 4-for-18 against Bryant. BC missed its first five shots from the arc before Trapani broke through with 6:47 left in the first half. Trapani was 2-for-5 from the perimeter while Jackson and Sanders were both 1-for-5. "I think most of our guys might be rushing their shots," Trapani said. "They are open and they immediately shoot instead of just calming down. In practice we shoot a much higher percentage and I think our defensive intensity is much higher in practice so, I think in a game situation we just need to calm down and shoot the ball like we usually do." Skinner acknowledged that if the smaller lineup shoots better from outside, BC will be a tough team to beat. "I think [the smaller lineup] presents some problems for the opposing teams in terms of how do you defend that?" Skinner said. "Once our perimeter play, in terms of our perimeter shooting, starts to improve then we will be very, very difficult to deal with."

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