The plan was to put playmakers in the best spots to make plays. The challenge was finding those spots in Syracuse’s signature 2-3 zone.
Once Boston College got off the flight after a frustrating unraveling at Miami last Saturday, coach Jim Christian had three days to figure out how to attack the Orange’s defense.
Trying to do it by keeping his two dynamic guards Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman on the perimeter would only get the Eagles so far.
So he schemed up away to set up Robinson and Bowman in the heart of the Syracuse zone and pick it apart from inside.
Christian moved them around like chess pieces, finding ways for them to get in the middle of the lane and either find open looks for teammates or for themselves.
By the time Syracuse realized what was happening, it already was too late.
The Eagles built an early double-digit lead and hung onto it for a 85-70 win that upped their record to 17-13 overall and 7-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“That’s how we play,” Christian said. “Those guys are our best decision-makers and the way that we tried to attack it was we tried to get the ball and make that middle guy in their zone play one-on-one with our guards. That was the whole thing. That’s what we tried to do tonight.
“Then they adjust because they’re really good at what they do. So then they adjust and we had to counter-adjust there at the end. But you’ve got to make shots. If we didn’t make shots it doesn’t look as good.”
It’s the most wins for the program since the 2010-11 season and the most conference wins since 2012-13.
For a program that hasn’t made a postseason appearance since reaching the NIT in 2011, the victory was crucial with one game remaining before the ACC tips off next week at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Bowman finished with a team-high 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Robinson dropped 22 on 8-of-18 shooting. The pair combined for 12 of BC’s 19 assists.
“I think it was really important,’’ Robinson said. “I think we knew what we were doing. When we got in the middle, we took our time and made the right plays.”
The first meeting was an anomaly. The Orange shot a season-high 60.4 percent and hit 7 of 16 3-pointers.
This time, the Eagles made things difficult for Syracuse on offense. The Orange missed 10 of their first 16 shots and were largely being carried by sophomore guard Tyus Battle, who drained his first three treys and scored 9 of the team’s first 16 points.
The Orange were in a 24-14 hole a little more than 10 minutes into the game.
Jordan Chatman was 4 for his last 22 from 3-point range over four games and an Eagles team that thrives when its third scorer is clicking struggled.
The Eagles were 9-4 when Chatman hits at least four 3-pointers. He knocked down two in the first half — one from the corner that put the Eagles up, 10-3, with 16:22 left and another from the wing at the 13:47 mark that made it 13-6 — which heped set the tone.
“Against the zone, he’s one of the better zone-buster players in the country,” Christian said. Chatman finished with 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting, hitting 5 of 10 treys. “When they’re going in, my teammates always come back and find me, so all hats off to them for finding me when I’m open and just shoot with confidence.”
In a cluster of four teams with either seven or eight conference wins, the Eagles moved into a tie with Syracuse, both at 7-10. Their final game of the regular season against Florida State on Saturday has ACC tournament seeding implications.
“I think again, it’s all about creating momentum,” Christian said. “It’s all about momentum and we needed — after three games, two of them we didn’t play very well and then having to play Miami where we played well and had to swallow that bitter pill — to come back and play today, we needed to create some momentum.
“And as I told the team, that’s what character is. When you’re down and you know you lost a game you should’ve won, to bounce back and play well and not doubt yourself, that’s a huge step for our program. That’s not something that would’ve happened previously.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.