Commentary

BC enters postseason on high note

Updated: March 6, 2011, 8:19 PM ET
By Allen Lessels | Special to ESPNBoston.com

NEWTON, Mass. -- Boston College got its reward for a dominating 84-68 win over Wake Forest in front of a Conte Forum sellout crowd of 8,606 on Sunday afternoon: a rematch with Wake on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

The Eagles, playing an impressive pass-happy offense, improved to 19-11 overall and 9-7 in the ACC and moved a step closer to an NCAA bid.

Doubling up on the Demon Deacons on Thursday just might be enough to secure a berth in the expanded 68-team field. At the very least, it would put the Eagles at 20 wins and send them up against Clemson, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, on Friday.

[+] EnlargeReggie Jackson
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireJunior Reggie Jackson says BC, riding a season-high three-game ACC winning streak, is feeling very positive.

"We're definitely just trying to rack up wins and stay significant in this conference," junior guard Reggie Jackson said.

Despite Sunday's success, the Eagles vowed not to look past Thursday's game.

"We've got to go in and watch film and the mistakes we made today so we don't make the same mistakes on Thursday," forward Corey Raji said.

They didn't make a ton of them Sunday.

Raji was one of four Eagles, three of them seniors, who scored in double figures. He had 21 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes.

Senior forward Joe Trapani had 17 points and 3 rebounds, and senior guard Biko Paris contributed 19 points, making 6 of his 7 3-pointers.

Jackson added 14 points and 7 assists in 20 minutes.

A sharing time was a joyous time for the Eagles.

"They've learned how to win by moving the ball, passing and cutting hard," Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "Give them a lot of credit. They share the ball."

The Eagles had 15 assists on 17 baskets in the first half and 23 assists for the game. Senior Josh Southern and Paris had four each and Trapani had three.

The 23 assists were the most for BC in an ACC game this season.

"Moving the ball just opens everything else up and we did a pretty good job of that today," Raji said.

"I thought we did a very good job of attacking their defense and making them overreact and then sharing the ball," BC coach Steve Donahue said. "That's kind of what I preach every day, once we get the defense chasing us to make the extra pass. I thought we did a great job. The other thing is, I think we're now ready to shoot the ball every time we catch it."

The shooting, thanks in large part to the passing, wasn't bad at all.

The Eagles had their best night from the field all season (32-of-55, 58.2 percent) and second best from beyond the 3-point line (12-of-22, 54.5 percent).

BC is on a season-high ACC winning streak of three games and has rebounded well from a 73-64 loss at home to Miami on Feb. 23 that left its NCAA hopes murky at best.

Donahue has gone with a smaller lineup since then, using senior guard John Cahill more with Raji at the power forward spot for the most part instead of small forward.

"I think we're very difficult to guard," Donahue said. "And oddly enough, something I didn't realize that's helped us is in our transition defense. That was really an Achilles' heel for us when we had a bigger lineup."

Now the Eagles take the ball sharing and smaller lineup to the ACC tournament, where the only thing that matters is the next game with the struggling Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest dropped to 6-23 overall and 1-15 in the ACC with its 10th straight loss on Sunday.

"The games are going to be totally different," Donahue said. "Don't expect it to be as easy."

Unlike Donahue, who has a veteran team, Bzdelik has five freshmen and a couple of sophomores among his 10 scholarship players.

But he bristled at the suggestion his team might take a looser, nothing-to-lose approach to Thursday's game. "Listen, I expect to win," Bzdelik said. "Every time you take the court I expect to win. This is not throw up the white flag. It's a chance to compete and I look forward to that opportunity and those who are competitors, they too look forward to that opportunity."

The Eagles look forward to trying to make a run in the ACC tournament and locking up an NCAA bid in the process.

They recalled Sunday how last season ended, and no doubt will bring it up again as Thursday approaches. Last March, BC beat Virginia 68-55 in its last home game, then lost to the Cavaliers 68-62 in the first round of the tournament, ending its season with a 15-16 record.

"There's a chance to make the NCAA tournament so that's a lot different from last year," Jackson said. "You were trying to get everybody's spirits up, but then everybody in the back of their mind was kind of thinking if you don't win the tournament, what exactly are you playing for?"

This time, the goal is clear and straight ahead.

"We're going into this tournament very positive," Jackson said. "We know we have a chance; well we believe we have a chance, to win the ACC tournament. And you know you have a chance to make the NCAA tournament. We're coming off a nice little streak. Just got to keep it up, keep winning."

Allen Lessels is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE