Last Friday night, the Boston College men’s basketball team—filled with pressure and adrenaline—was set to play a formidable Providence College in the biggest game of its season thus far. Their 69-60 win just made things that much sweeter.
The BC men's basketball program just received its largest donation in history, an endowment to the head coaching position, joining football and men’s hockey as the only teams with coaching endowments on campus. The game against providence was BC’s first game since the donation and, to add to that pressure, the donors were in attendance. This night, accordingly, represented a very important game for the basketball team, not only this season, but as a whole.
For those who aren’t up to date on BC’s athletic history, the men's basketball team was previously a member of the Big East conference. Providence College was in the Big East during Boston College’s time in the conference, and continues to play in said conference. To put it nicely, these teams didn’t love each other, having met on the hardwood 108 times before Friday.
The old Big East was synonymous with great basketball, but not just great basketball--great physical basketball. The conference prides itself, to this day, on the toughness of its games and having the sort of fire and ruggedness to its play that makes for a thrilling contest. This is exactly what we had Friday night.
The Friars came into Conte at 6-1. Their one loss came at the hands of Kentucky, who would probably be a contender in the Eastern Conference of the NBA. Simply put, Providence is clearly the best team The Eagles have played so far this season. Providence's Star forward LaDontae Henton came into the game scoring more than 21 points per game. Kris Dunn is one of the best point guards in the nation and is only a sophomore. With all of this in mind, the Eagles came out Friday night and played the best basketball of their season from the opening tip to the final horn.
Conte, for the first time all year, had a bit of a student section present and, according to Coach Christian, this was a “huge factor” in Friday’s win. He stated after the game, “Monday night [against Marist] we were very disappointed," when it came to student support. However, he commended the job the administration did promoting the game and helping bring in fans, though one would hope that students came for the great basketball, not the free T-shirts.
Whatever reason they showed up for, the students in attendance were treated right off the tip to some fantastic match-ups. Patrick Heckmann was given the tall task of trying to handle Henton on defense, and boy, did he step up. After the game, Christian could not stop talking about Heckmann's play and the preparation leading up to this week's game. Heckmann and the Eagles held Henton to 5 points in the first half, and 9 for the entire game.
BC’s main scoring threat, Olivier Hanlan, had a slightly better night. Hanlan went off right from the get-go and dropped 18 points in the first half. In the first 20 minutes, BC shot over 58% from the floor. No, that is not a typo. Over 58%. They needed every point they could get, because they struggled mightily with turnovers in the first half, with a turnover margin of -6. Hanlan carried the Eagles through the first half of play; going into the third with 34 points on the board, he would get more than a little help from the rest of the team.
The final 20 minutes of the game couldn’t help but remind you of old Big East basketball. These minutes featured teams trading buckets, hard fouls, crowds chanting back and forth, and overall great team play. In the second half, BC came out and not only cleaned up their turnovers, but played as a team. The Eagles received huge contributions from players like Dimitri Batten, who was thriving in the absence of Eddie Odio and Lonnie Jackson, and Will Magarity, who was able to fire up the team and fans with a huge play. Coach Christian, Hanlan, and Aaron Brown gave praise to Magarity for his huge loose ball recovery with about 13 minutes left in the second half.
Coach Christian called hustle plays such as Magarity's, “identity plays,” plays that really define each game and who you are as a team. It was plays like this that led the Eagles to their 9-point win and allowed Hanlan to only need to score 6 points in the second half.
Coach Christian summed it up saying that “the team needed a win like this.” He said wins like this are what will let the team “stop hoping that they will, and start knowing it.”
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