CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Boston College has come back from the Christmas break in a better place than they were before it. In fact, it’s better than where they were over a week before their last game, as their 83-73 win over Sacred Heart last Wednesday was their third straight.
With a young team, confidence is big, and head coach Steve Donahue has been talking about that all along. He knew the wins would be hard to come by and keeping up confidence would be a battle. There was no question the players would get better, and Donahue has constantly said that the players are doing what he has asked of them and then some. There hasn’t been a complaint about the effort and work ethic, and that’s not to be underestimated.
“Their effort is the same, their consistency in terms of execution is starting to get better,” said Donahue. “You kind of know what you can expect in a game now, and it makes you feel a lot better than earlier in the year, when I wasn’t sure what to expect at times.”
Looking just at individual players, it’s noticeable. Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford look like they’re starting to round into a reasonable frontcourt duo. K.C. Caudill has to improve his conditioning, among other things, but Anderson scored in double figures for the fourth straight game and Clifford set a new career high with 16 points and tied another with three blocked shots against Sacred Heart and is getting more consistent.
The perimeter is the bigger area, and one can see the progress reflected more. Lonnie Jackson has come alive and looks ready to play more minutes and take on a bigger role after scoring 26 against Bryant and having a big second half, including several key shots, against Sacred Heart. Jackson didn’t score in the first half but hit all four of his shots in the second. That, along with junior Matt Humphrey looking much more comfortable, has helped offset the difficulty Patrick Heckmann, arguably the most talented of the freshmen, had the last time out.
The point guard spot looked like a question mark early on, and while it’s not exactly the strongest area on the team, the Eagles look to be in a better place there now. Jordan Daniels looks much more at home and seems to be better every time out, while Gabe Moton is giving them solid minutes off the bench, especially at the defensive end.
“I think we’re a much better basketball team now that we can rely on Jordan to handle the ball,” said Donahue. “Early on, I thought it was an adventure at times to get the ball over halfcourt and get us into something.”
Daniels didn’t have a banner evening against Sacred Heart, but he still had four assists and two turnovers to lead the way as the Eagles had 16 assists and 13 turnovers. It marked the fourth time all season they had more assists than turnovers, and as a possible sign of momentum, it was the second straight game in which they did that.
Boston College won’t be the favorite against Harvard on Thursday night, and not just because the Eagles have lost three straight to the Crimson. The Crimson are simply a better team right now, and a case could be made that they were the better team last year as well. Even so, the Eagles will come into the game in a much better place than they were a couple of weeks ago, and while a win will be viewed as an upset, it wouldn’t be as much of a shocker as it would be a few weeks earlier.
“It’s huge,” said Donahue of winning three straight. “We’re been through a lot already in these couple of months. We’ve got a little more understanding of what it takes to win now. I think it’s huge that you have success, and they start believing even more, and then it snowballs.”