Boston College Post Mortem

Rutgers defeated Boston College 75-72 in a game that the Scarlets Knights had to win to preserve their chances to qualify for the Big East Tournament in March. Rutgers rode a nearly relentless defense and an aggressive, smart offense to a victory against one of the hottest and most formidable road teams in the conference.


Here's an analysis of how Rutgers measured up to my keys to the Boston College game.  The original text is presented in bold italics.   

1.  Tempo.  The Eagles are the second highest scoring team in the Big East at 85 ppg.  However, Head Coach Al Skinner's crew also give up more points (83) ppg) than any team in the league.  Rutgers obviously doesn't have the firepower to get into a shootout with Boston College.  The Scarlet Knights must slow the tempo of the game and keep the final score in the 60's.  Rutgers also must accomplish this while applying pressure to Boston College for the full 40 minutes.  Skinner only uses a 7-man rotation.  Furthermore, his three big guns - Sr PG Troy Bell, Jr SG Ryan Sidney, and Fr PF Craig Smith - each play nearly the entire game.  Waters must rotate defenders on these three - Jerome Coleman and Calvin Wooten on Bell, Mike Sherrod and Juel Wiggan on Sidney, and Kareem Wright and Sean Axani on Smith.  Make them work hard for their points on the offensive end.  And run them relentlessly on the defensive end.  Wear them out in the halfcourt. 

With the exception of the final eight minutes of the first half, when Boston College erupted for 26 points and successfully hit their final 10 FGAs, Rutgers forced its tempo on Boston College.  The Eagles scored but 48 points during the other 32 minutes - a 58 point pace for a full 40 minutes.  Rutgers took both Sydney (3 of 11 FGAs and 5 TOs) and Smith (3 of 11 FGAs and 3 TOs) out of the game.  Troy Bell carried Boston College with 18 first-half points, but was held to only 9 points in the second half.  The early ejection of backup SG Jermaine Watson 4 minutes into the second half forced Skinner to play Bell and Sydney without rest in the second half. 

2.  Attack Smith.  Craig Smith gives Skinner an inside presence that Boston College has generally lacked since Skinner first arrived in Chestnut Hill.  At 6-7 and 265 pounds, Smith is a big kid.  He likely will be too strong for Sean Axani or Herve Lamizana.  Kareem Wright will have to guard Smith.  The key to success for the foul-prone Wright will be to defend Smith immediately on the offensive end.  Waters should start Wright in place of the ineffective Axani.  And Waters must focus the offense on Wright from the opening tipoff.  Pound the ball inside to Wright and go after Smith.  Wright's tremendous size gives him the ability to draw fouls.  Kareem must get Smith into foul trouble and get him off the floor.  Defensively, Kareem must rely upon double-teams to defend Smith.  Hold his ground and let his teammates force Smith to give up the ball, as the Scarlet Knights did with Seton Hall's Kelly Whitney last Sunday. 

Axani started and performed commendably against Smith.  Axani and Wright worked hard to deny position and the ball.  Rutgers swarmed Smith from the opening tipoff, forcing him to give up the ball.  A frustrated Smith picked up his second foul -- a clearout off Axani -- with with 7:15 remaining in the first half and sat the rest of the way.  Smith, averaging 21 ppg, was shutout in the first half.  Smith scored 4 quick points after halftime, but was limited to five more points the rest of the game.  Smith scored only 9 points and grabbed only 6 rebounds.  Meanwhile, Axani and Wright combined for 11 points and 11 rebounds in comparably minutes. 

3.  Dribble Penetration.  Boston College doesn't spend much time playing defense.  Their FG% and 3P% defense are also among the worst in the league.  The Rutgers guards - most notably Coleman and Ricky Shields - must forego their obsession with 3-point shooting and take the ball to the basket.  Dribble penetration will force the Eagles to play defense, rather than simply relying upon Rutgers to miss from beyond the arc.  Dribble penetration will get Boston College into foul trouble.  It will create passing lanes for the big men inside, which Rutgers must do more proficiently.  And it will open up the 3-point line at it's shortest distance, rather than three to five feet further, from which the Scarlet Knights all to frequently shoot. 

From its opening possession, when Axani drove on Smith for a reverse layup, Rutgers attacked Boston College with dribble penetraton.  25 of Rutgers 75 points were scored on -- or setup by -- dribble penetration.  Dribble drives.  Drives and dishes.  Drives and kickouts for open 3-balls.  Foul shots.  Rutgers, the worst shooting team in the Big East, shot 47% on their FGAs and 56% on their 3PAs against Boston College.  Dribble penetration contributed to 15 of Rutgers 37 first-half points, substantially enabling Rutgers to stay within striking range of an Eagle team that shot 64% in the first half and made its final 10 FGAs. 

4.  Zone Defense.  Last year in the first round of the Big East tournament, Rutgers threw a zone defense at Boston College and the Eagles struggled mightily, scoring only 22 first half points.  Waters had his longer players - Jason McCoy and Herve - on the wings.  This effectively closed off much of the court to Boston College.  Boston College was not a good perimeter shooting team and the long zone forced the Eagles to shoot from the perimeter.  Waters must employ a similar zone against the Eagles.  Use it to protect Kareem Wright from foul trouble.  But, unlike the zone futilely employed against West Virginia, keep Kareem in the middle and let the perimeter defenders focus on the real shooting threats - Bell and PF Andrew Bryant. 

Nope.  Waters played man-to-man defense the entire game.  No zone.  No full-court press.  Just in-your-face man-to-man defense.  With the exception of the final 8 minutes of the first half, Rutgers held Boston College to 30% FG shooting for game.  Bell was the only real 3-point shooting threat for Boston College and he missed all his long balls in the second half.  Without a serious deep threat, Rutgers swarmed the low post.  And sealed off dribble penetration.  The Scarlet Knights denied shots to Bell in the second half and forced the struggling Sydney and Smith to shoot more.  It worked.  Boston College made only 24% of their second half FGAs. 

Boston College runs a very efficient half-court offense.  One that is reminiscent of that employed by the Utah Jazz, with lots of movement and screens, especially by the guards inside.  17 of Boston College's 24 baskets were assisted.  At least 12 of those assists were recorded in the first half.  In the second half, Rutgers fought through the screens and played better help defense.  The results was fewer open men, fewer assists, and fewer baskets. 

5.  Transition Defense.  Sloppy transition defense was Rutgers' undoing against Seton Hall.  Seton Hall scored 21 of their 58 points in transition.  The Scarlet Knights must hustle back on defense and force Boston College to beat them in a halfcourt game.  Coleman, Shields, and Wiggan each were guilty of dogging it on defense.  Waters needs to give a quick hook to any of his players who are letting their man outrun them downcourt for easy baskets.  Plays guys who will play defense.  The whole length of the court.  Not just 47 feet.  If the Eagles can get their running game fired up, the Scarlet Knights will get run out of their own gym. 

Rutgers allowed only 9 points in transition.  Including FTs resulting from fouls in transition.  The Scarlet Knight backcourt hustled back on defense and denied the Eagles easy transition scoring opportunties.  Rutgers turned the game into a halfcourt affair.  Nonetheless, their victory was no small feat because Boston College runs a such an effective half-court offense.

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