The Three-Pointer: Jackson provides spark for Eagles vs. UNC

February 20, 2010 - 11:21 am
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This is not the same North Carolina team from last season that won a national championship. Not even close. But for a team such as Boston College that was desperate to get one in the win column '€” the Eagles had dropped their last four games, and five of their last six '€” it will take a 71-67 victory. Six days after scoring just 17 points in the second half and dropping a game on the road at Florida State, 62-47, the Eagles moved back up to .500 at 13-13 (4-8 ACC) by dropping the disappointing Tar Heels to 14-13 and a sorry 3-9 in the conference. Reggie Jackson, getting his first start since Jan. 5, led the way for BC by flirting with a triple-double with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Eagles also got 16 points from Corey Raji and 14 from Rakim Sanders, 10 of which came in the first half. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was in attendance along with other NBA scouts to take in the game. They saw Deon Thompson finish with 17 points and nine rebounds for the Tar Heels, but Roy Williams'€™ team struggled once again on the road, dropping its record away from Chapel Hill to just 2-9. Here are three things we learned from a much-needed victory for BC. JACKSON SETS THE TONE Coach Al Skinner had been frustrated by his team'€™s efforts at the start of games recently, and he made the choice after the game against FSU to put Jackson back into the starting lineup in the place of Biko Paris. And the sophomore backed up the decision, coming through with big numbers and, more importantly, solid ball-handling at the point guard spot, as he finished with just one turnover on the day. '€œHe'€™s always given us a lift off the bench, but we have been starting games slow '€” not necessarily that was Biko'€™s error '€” but we wanted to make a little bit of a change and he created some opportunities,'€ Skinner said. '€œThe most important thing is that we didn'€™t turn the ball over a lot as a team, and obviously he is included in that,'€ Skinner added. '€œBut he gave us some rebounding, obviously some scoring and he had a number of assists.'€ Jackson was particularly impressive in the second half, scoring 13 points and taking control toward the end of the game with his drives to the basket. After the Eagles disintegrated in the second half last Sunday, Jackson wanted to provide a steadying presence for his team. '€œI just wanted to do the same thing I do when I come off the bench '€” bring energy,'€ Jackson said. '€œBut basically I wanted to focus myself and the team on the second half because that'€™s been our Achilles' heel all year.'€ It showed, as the Eagles were able to hold on down the stretch despite their penchant as of late to lose close games, as they had come short by less than seven points in their last four losses before the FSU game. '€œAfter we played Florida State, I was very disappointed with our execution in the second half,'€ Skinner said. '€œWe took some time to look at a little tape on that, I think guys saw that and we showed a little more patience on offense. I think clearly this is the most patient we have been on the offensive end, and saying that along with good execution, we end up getting good looks at the basket.'€ RAVENEL STEPS UP Just like he did against FSU Sunday, when he finished with eight points and six rebounds in the loss, Evan Ravenel stepped up to alleviate the inside troubles of BC. Once again, both Josh Southern and Cortney Dunn were ineffective for the Eagles, finishing with goose eggs in both the points and rebounding columns. But Ravenel came in and gave Skinner help on both the offensive and defensive sides from his first time on the court. '€œWe have four posts right now and we all try to come in and play hard,'€ Ravenel said. '€œIf I play two minutes or I play 40 minutes it doesn'€™t matter, as long as I give it my all we should come out with the win.'€ The big man had six points and three rebounds in eight minutes of first-half play, and was solid on the defensive end, including a stretch when he had consecutive blocks at the eight-minute mark. '€œHe'€™s got a lot of energy, and one of the things is that he is clearly our best offensive post player,'€ Skinner said about Ravenel. '€œIt'€™s just that earlier in the season I thought that like the rest of us he was very impatient, and I'€™ve thought he has kind of calmed down and allowed the play to come to him a little bit. '€œHe always has been an active body, but now he is bringing a little more discipline to his game and because of that it has allowed us to utilize him more,'€ he added. Though his second-half numbers weren'€™t as strong, as he added just two points and a rebound, Ravenel delivered when it counted with a huge putback dunk to bring BC'€™s lead back to two possessions (67-62) with just under two minutes left. Against a team such as North Carolina, which played four guys over 6-foot-9 in the game, Skinner needed to get quality minutes out of Ravenel, and he did. Ravenel and the Eagles'€™ hustle on the offensive glass did not go unnoticed by UNC coach Roy Williams. "You've got to box out. That's part of the game,'€ the Tar Heels coach said. '€œThat's an extremely important part of the game. In my opinion, it's one of the three most important parts of the game. I'm looking down there [at the stats] I see we have 24 second-chance points and they have 18, and I'm just dumbfounded by that, 'cause I thought they had 880." '€œWe just tried to stick to the basics and box out and be physical with them,'€ Ravenel said about his team'€™s ability to beat North Carolina on the glass, as the Eagles finished with a 43-39 edge. "They are a very physical and athletic team and they are a lot taller than us, so we just tried to box out and be physical and just get boards." DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME Both teams came into this game on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament picture, but Williams and the Tar Heels had designs on making a run to March Madness starting with the game against the Eagles. "My own opinion, I thought we were going to win today and get on a great run and we'd be in the NCAA tournament," Williams said. "Now I've got to readjust and see if we can get it done by starting on Wednesday night or whenever the next game is. ... I did say last night, 'All right, we're 3-8, let's win five in a row, 8-8 will get us in.' " The Eagles, on the other hand, know that even with the win over UNC, their hopes come down to the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., that begins on March 11. '€œWe have enough depth and quality depth to go to the tournament '€” if we can continue to play and play at a high level '€” to go there and have some success in the tournament,'€ Skinner said. '€œThat'€™s really what our goal is right now.'€ '€œWe can prepare ourselves to be successful and continue to be successful and go in and make a little noise that way,'€ he added. That being said, BC is hoping that this win serves as a springboard for its last four games, starting with a visit to Conte Forum from Virginia Tech on Wednesday, and into the ACC tournament. Skinner finally sees his team settling in now, and the Eagles clearly believe they have what it takes to make a run in Greensboro and challenge some of the conference'€™s elite teams. '€œI'€™d like to believe we'€™ve got the plan, and now we'€™ve just got to continue on and execute it,'€ Skinner said. '€œWe'€™ve been struggling all season long on what it is that we needed to do and I think we finally settled in on what'€™s necessary for this team.'€ '€œWe just have to work on being poised and being ourselves and staying within coach'€™s system," Jackson added. "Just get confidence going into the ACC tournament because we know we have to win that to get into the NCAA tournament, and we believe we can.'€