There were two similar halves. And they told very different stories.
The Boston College men’s basketball team defeated Holy Cross, 70-60, Saturday at Conte Forum — outscoring the Crusaders, 35-30, in each half —
After a home matchup with Dartmouth on Monday, the Eagles jump into Atlantic Coast Conference play, starting with a visit from 23d-ranked North Carolina State Jan. 5. Even with its current run, BC has yet to hit its stride or win a game in a fashion that would make any coach dread a trip to Boston for a reason other than the winter weather or confusing roundabouts.
“I’m not really concerned with that right now,” said BC coach Steve Donahue. “I’m more concerned with what we’re doing and how we’re getting better.”
For the first three minutes Saturday, BC couldn’t make a basket. On the first possession, Olivier Hanlan threw a bounce pass out of bounds. Then Patrick Heckmann left a layup about a foot-and-a-half short on a two-on-one fast break. Then Lonnie Jackson fired the ball into the stands.
Heckmann hit a 3-pointer to get BC on the board and put many of the 5,442 fans on their feet. It looked like the Eagles would go on a run. They didn’t.
Back and forth it went, with Holy Cross going big to combat an Eagles lineup that was missing 7-foot center Dennis Clifford for much of the game. Clifford logged nine minutes in the first half, but aggravated his sore right ankle when he dove for a loose ball and fell on top of Holy Cross forward Malcolm Miller. Clifford’s also dealing with a right knee injury.
“I thought he did a good job today, made great passes, rebounded,” said Donahue. “The knee is something he’ll have to deal with the next couple of months here. For now we’ll see how he progresses health-wise and that’ll determine if we can play him more.”
The Eagles, who love to shoot the three, started to get hot from downtown. Jackson drained a trey. Hanlan hit a long-range jumper, then a 3-pointer that could have been considered a half-court attempt.
The Eagles went 6 for 11 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.
The Crusaders, taking advantage of Clifford’s absence, scored 14 of their 30 first-half points in the paint.
Four minutes into the second half, Heckmann hit another 3-pointer, his third of the day. Over the next seven minutes, Holy Cross didn’t score.
The Eagles went on a 15-0 run, hitting a trio of treys, slamming a few dunks, converting on give-and-go plays, finding sophomore Ryan Anderson inside while the guards worked their magic outside.
“I think we’re just starting to understand what we have to do to win the games,” Heckmann said. “That’s the biggest part right now.”
Anderson, playing center in Clifford’s absence, gave up his fair share of points, but he forced Holy Cross to work for them, often resulting in a contested shot or a Crusader driving straight into heavy traffic with no detour.
By the time BC’s run was over, Holy Cross had made 10 substitutions. Nothing had worked. The Crusaders fell behind, 52-37.
“I think we’re a lot better,” Hanlan said. “We play a lot more confident, more aggressive. We just want to be an up-and-down type of team and push the ball. And be aggressive on defense. That plays a big part.”
Heckmann finished with 19 points, going 5 of 7 from 3-point land. Anderson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, nine on the defensive end.
“We’re not there yet,” Donahue said. “But I think you see really good progress in a lot of areas. We’ll be better and compete, and when the games come I anticipate we’ll be prepared and play well.”