CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – You always know a turning point or defining moment in hindsight. Rarely do you know it when it happens. The book on Jim Christian’s tenure at Boston College is only just beginning, but Friday night’s 69-60 win over Providence may end up being one of those defining moments of his tenure. It may be just what this team needed.
“The theme all week was we’ve got to stop hoping to win and start knowing you’re going to win,” said Christian. “I think this was a game that can catapult us to that.”
The Eagles’ season thus far has been decidedly a mixed bag, but Friday night was the best game they have played, even though they have a win over New Mexico. Providence came in at 6-1 with wins over Florida State, Notre Dame and Yale, with the only blemish being a loss at Kentucky with an ailing Kris Dunn. Providence was favored despite being on the road. BC doesn’t have a bad loss, but none of their wins coming into the game will leap out at anyone, either.
Boston College gave a complete effort. They shot 50 percent from the field, overcoming a 16-28 showing at the free throw line and 14 turnovers. Providence shot 39 percent from the field and had eight of their ten turnovers in the second half. BC had a 38-28 edge in points in the paint against a Providence team that made a concerted effort to go inside and has more depth up front than on the perimeter, and out-rebounded Providence 41-28.
“I just feel like everybody was on the same page,” said Olivier Hanlan, who was the offensive spark in the first half with 18 of his 24 points and finished the day going 8-12 from the field. “We started the first half a little bumpy on defense, but the second half we got everything together and everybody was crashing the boards.”
BC also limited LaDontae Henton, the Friars’ leading scorer who is off to a hot start. He finished with just nine points on 4-16 shooting, and he also had two turnovers. They did a good job of not letting them get him the ball in good places often, and he had to work for all of those nine points. Even less of a factor was Tyler Harris, who had seven points on 2-9 shooting and just three rebounds. The Friars hang their hat on their forwards offensively, and BC didn’t let them take over the game.
As much as anything, though, this game showed how the Eagles compete. The numbers don’t tell you how they took punches all night long and punched back. The game had 13 ties and seven lead changes, so it’s not like the Eagles led from start to finish. And as Providence stayed in the game with Henton not a factor, you had to wonder if at some point he was going to explode and help the Friars take over. Instead, it never happened and the Eagles out-competed the Friars, and it showed with loose balls.
Helping was a play where big man Will Magarity dove for a ball right by the BC bench and got a timeout to get possession a few minutes into the second half. It was one of those “identity plays” that they talked about.
“This is indicative of how we play,” said Christian. “This isn’t a surprise to me or anybody else. We’ve played hard, we’ve competed every game, and that’s what we’re going to be all about.”
The Eagles went up 51-42, only to watch Providence score the next six. BC then came right back to answer, and they did every time Providence tried to make a charge at them, though foul trouble for Dunn (who matched Hanlan’s 24 points) and big man Carson Desrosiers (15 points) hampered any comeback attempt they may have had in them. The Eagles never let the Friars get untracked offensively.
More than that, they were better at playing through adversity than the Friars. That, as much as anything, was a big factor in this win, and they’ll have to play through adversity often.
“One thing I liked about our team tonight was every time we made a mistake, in every huddle the guys were just saying, ‘next play, next play,'” said Christian. “So we came to battle tonight, and we made plays when we had to, and that’s the way we’ve got to win.”
This is a stretch where the Eagles can gain confidence for ACC play, which is sure to be an uphill battle. They play all of their December games at home, and all are winnable ones. Beating Providence gives them a boost from a quality standpoint, but perhaps more importantly, from a confidence and winning formula standpoint as well. It may be just the kind of game they needed to boost their season with more than just a game in the left-hand column.