It hasn’t been a banner season for Boston College if you look solely at the bottom line. Even after last Sunday’s 66-51 win over Stony Brook, the Eagles are 3-7 after breaking a four-game losing streak. The bottom line doesn’t reflect it, but there’s a feeling that this team is growing and it seemed evident on Sunday while the bottom line did reflect it this time around.
BC head coach Steve Donahue admits he’s been preaching to his team about winning four-minute stretches – covering the time between media timeouts in a game. Sometimes that’s what you have to do when wins are hard to come by, and it’s been known for a while that they were not likely to be plentiful for this team. Freshman forward Ryan Anderson talked about this a little more, noting that even though they’re competitors and thus don’t like losing, they are looking away from the bottom line when evaluating where they are.
“We’re not focusing on the end results of the games, we’re just focusing on getting better every single game,” said Anderson. “If we keep getting better, we know the wins are eventually going to come.”
Donahue said that the lack of a bottom line reflection on the team’s improvement is the biggest challenge. When losses mount, things are never easy, and that’s happened with this team. It can be hard to buy in to what the coaching staff is trying to do given the lack of results.
“I think we make progress every day,” said the Eagle mentor. “When you’re starting to build a program from where we’re at it, in terms of totally new, I think you see a slight progression every day, but it’s not going to be smooth. It’s not necessarily going to show on the scoreboard, and that’s the hard part.”
In the prior game at Providence, the Eagles didn’t look like a confident team for a good deal of the game, mainly in the first half. They looked very much like the less experienced team on the floor and like a group who was having a tough time from having lost games recently and trailing early on. The Eagles looked a little more confident in the second half, but never got over the hump despite rallying a few times.
Against Stony Brook, the Eagles came out with a good defensive mindset right away and shut down the Seawolves. They played solid defense early, then really clamped down in scoring the final 22 points of the half and holding the Seawolves without a point for the final 11:50 of the half. Stony Brook was just 5-33 from the field for the half, and the 11 points is a Conte Forum record for the fewest points in a half. Defense wasn’t something last year’s team excelled in, let alone this team, so this was a very good thing to see for Eagle fans.
Donahue saw the difference in confidence and understands where it was coming from. He knows he has a team full of players who were used to success, so this kind of adversity is new to most of them. In practice, they’ve tried to address the issue of body language by having players run, and perhaps it’s paying off.
“I thought for the first time, they felt the flow of the game, and even though Stony Brook made runs in the second half, I thought we answered it, and I never thought we changed our confidence level for the whole game,” said Donahue.
The more confident players started with point guard Jordan Daniels. His numbers on the day aren’t going to make anyone forget Troy Bell or Tyrese Rice, but he was clearly more confident in orchestrating the offense and getting the defense going. His body language was better and he was more aggressive at both ends of the floor. Daniels is a key simply because of his position, and right now they appear ready to largely ride or die with him and not as much of Gabe Moton at that spot. The added confidence also showed with players like Dennis Clifford and Anderson. In addition, you can see Lonnie Jackson improving and even Moton as well.
Boston College will come off its break for final exams on Sunday, when they host Bryant. The Bulldogs have generally played better than their 1-9 mark would indicate, but the Eagles have handled them the past three years even as they have looked like they were on the verge of turning a corner. They will enter the game a more confident team, ready for its last stretch of games before ACC play really tests this young team.