On Wednesday night, the Cavaliers stayed hot with a blowout win over the Boston College Eagles, and at this point in the season, Virginia may be the only team that can catch Syracuse for the ACC regular season championship.
The Cavaliers entered Wednesday’s game fresh off their biggest win of the season, a road win against the Pittsburgh Panthers that came on a last second three-point shot by Malcolm Brogdon. But Virginia showed no hangover effect following their win at the Petersen Events Center, a place few road teams have won at throughout the years. They took control of their game against Boston College early and stayed in control for a full 40 minutes.
Virginia dominated Boston College in the same manner that they’ve won their last six games, with defense. The Cavaliers showcased their great on-ball defense, which prevented the Eagles from getting any dribble penetration and forced them to take contested perimeter shots. Virginia also dominated on the boards, holding Boston College to one shot per possession. That great defense allowed the Cavs to build a lead early in the game, which was impossible to overcome for a team as limited as Boston College.
Virginia has played exceptional defense for the past month, which has allowed them to shake off an uneven month of December in non-conference play and come shooting out of the gate when ACC play began. Except for their win against Pittsburgh, all of Virginia’s conference wins have been lopsided games, due in large part because they’ve allowed 55 points per game in conference play.
The Cavaliers are now 9-1 in ACC play, and because both Pittsburgh and Duke have three conference losses, Virginia may be the only team with a chance to beat out Syracuse for the league championship, especially if they can knock off the Orange at home when the two teams meet in early March. The way Virginia is playing right now, they may be a hotter team than Syracuse, and if they keep it up, they have a real chance to knock off the undefeated Orange.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.
On a night when the Connecticut Huskies could not seem to make anything, they were saved by junior forward DeAndre Daniels. The Huskies outlasted Boston College for a 72-70 victory on Tuesday evening during the final four of the 2K Sports Classic, and if it wasn’t for Daniels, this could have been a loss for UConn.
Daniels will be instrumental if the Huskies are to contend for the AAC title this year, and he led the way with 23 points on 8-15 shooting Tuesday night. He was the only UConn player who made more than one basket, and also shot higher than 35 percent from the field, and as a team, the Huskies shot 39.3 percent on the night.
UConn has two very good and ultra-quick guards, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, that will keep defenses on their toes most evenings, but Daniels is the x-factor for the Huskies. He is a stretch-four that opens up the driving lanes for Napier and Boatright, just like he did against Boston College. The Eagles kept collapsing in the paint to cut off drives from Napier, leaving Daniels open on the perimeter. Boston College went small, using Ryan Anderson at center, and this only made things better for Daniels. He was able to bully smaller players or shoot over the top of them. Anderson, who was the one bright spot for BC, was unable to stay with Daniels athletically, and the same issue was had by fellow Eagles Will Magarity and Eddie Odio. As a matter of fact, there are few players in the country who play the power forward position that can hang with Daniels in the athleticism department.
Daniels plays up to this point in the season is an added bonus for the Huskies; they typically rely on Napier and Boatright. It’s good to know that you have a third scoring option when your first two guys are having an off night. This time, the Huskies were fortunate and able to skate by with their two leading scorers, going a combined 8-25 from the field, and if it wasn’t for Napier’s ability to get to the stripe (he attempted 10 free throws), the Huskies would have been knocked off by the Eagles.
The game was a nail-biter that went to the final buzzer, as Boston College had a three-point attempt swatted away as the final buzzer sounded. Daniels was able to walk off the court knowing that he was the reason his team won. Not only did Daniels have 23 points, he also led the team with six rebounds, two steals, and added a block for good measure. There aren’t going to be many nights when UConn will need Daniels to have a big night for them to win, but on this night, they sure were glad he was capable of taking charge and leading them to victory.
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It’s hard to criticize Boston College‘s effort in a narrow 72-70 loss to No. 18-ranked Connecticut tonight, considering it was, without a doubt, the best overall game the Eagles have played so far this season. But you still can’t help but feel like the Eagles put themselves in a little bit of a hole with their over-reliance on the three pointer, launching 26 but hitting just eight.
You really have to wonder if the game may have turned out a little differently had the Eagles looked to attack the rim earlier, especially when you take into account that, after finding themselves trailing by nine late, they fought their way back when they finally started taking it inside.
From the early stages of the game, it was clear that the entire game plan for Boston College would revolve around moving the ball around the perimeter and heaving up shots from deep, which is always a dangerous strategy. After all, people use the saying, “live by the three, die by the three” for a very good reason. Of their first 25 shots in the first half, 15 were three point attempts and only five of those were makes. Meanwhile, the Eagles had virtually no points in the paint, and, in fact, barely looked for shots around the basket.
What is troubling watching Boston College play is that, while he’s clearly more of a face up guy on offense by nature, Ryan Anderson proved adept at backing down the big, athletic UConn defenders and scoring or drawing fouls. Considering how well he shoots free throws, even when he managed to draw a foul, it was automatic points for the Eagles.
More of that should be inserted into the offensive game plan by Steve Donahue in the future if the Eagles hope to have more success as the season goes on. Anderson is a versatile all-around scorer, and should not be relegated to simply hanging around the perimeter to launch jumpers. He clearly has the ability, not to mention the patience, to create for himself with his back to the basket. A healthier mix of inside game to go along with the idea of making him a stretch four would go a long way for BC.
Of course, it also didn’t help for the Eagles that Olivier Hanlan had perhaps his poorest offensive game of the season. At 6-foot-4, he should have been able to take the much smaller UConn guards to the rack with greater frequency, but apparently he was scared off by the interior length of the Huskies, and settled for far too many jumpers rather than exploiting his size and athleticism for better looks closer to the hoop.
Overall, the bizarre reluctance to even look for shots on the interior was never more evident than a play that occurred with just over 14 minutes left in the game, when the 6-foot-8 Eddie Odio caught a pass about six feet from the hoop in the middle of the paint. Even with the defender backpedaling, his eyes never once went to the hoop, choosing instead to immediately kick it out to Joe Rahon, who then launched and missed a three. If anything summed up the way the Eagles apparently wanted to attack UConn tonight, that was it.
The pieces are clearly there for Boston College to make a move up the ACC standings, as they feature what is potentially one of the top inside/outside duos in the conference in Anderson and Hanlan. They simply need to incorporate more of the inside, and a little less of the outside, if they’re going to make it work.