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BC 89, NJIT 32

Eagles back on beam

This time, task not taken lightly

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / January 6, 2010

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Calling the Boston College men’s basketball team’s 89-32 win over New Jersey Institute of Technology last night a glorified scrimmage would be giving it too much credit. The Eagles’ actual scrimmage - a 99-58 exhibition win over St. Michael’s Nov. 8 - was more competitive.

Losing to Maine last Saturday - the last in a trio of embarrassing defeats during a stretch of eight home games that lead the Eagles into the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend at Clemson - put BC in the mood to send a message.

By shooting 60 percent in the first half, building a 45-14 halftime lead, and holding the Highlanders without a basket for 14 minutes, the Eagles weren’t trying to prove anything to NJIT, they were trying to prove something to themselves.

“It just so happened this was the team that showed up tonight,’’ said Eagles coach Al Skinner. The message was that BC has to bring energy every game, no matter what team it is playing.

For BC to score 19 points in a half, or 51 points in a game, the way it did against Maine, was unforgivable in Skinner’s eyes.

“They don’t need me to coach that type of team,’’ Skinner said. “They don’t need me for that. So they’ve got to come out and give a better effort than that, and that’s what tonight was.’’

The 57-point margin of victory was the Eagles’ largest since they beat Bentley, 132-79, in 1982. Rakim Sanders led the way, scoring 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and going 3 for 4 from 3-point range.

“There’s a certain level that each individual should have of himself,’’ Skinner said. “And a team should have a certain level that they should expect of themselves. On different occasions this year, we have not done that. It’s important for us, starting today, to establish a certain level of play, a certain level of intensity.’’

There was a point, early in the first half, when NJIT led. Isaiah Wilkerson (11 points) chucked up a floater over two defenders to put the Highlanders ahead, 10-7. But BC’s Joe Trapani (18 points, eight rebounds) went on a tear, cutting into the lane for easy layups and also hitting from long range, sparking a 24-2 run that just snowballed. The Eagles turned NJIT’s 19 turnovers into 29 points.

NJIT shot just 18.8 percent from the floor in the second half (23.5 percent for the game), and even when the Eagles stretched their lead to 77-27 with 7:57 left there were no signs of a letup, with Corey Raji (7 points, four steals) and Reggie Jackson (15 points, three 3-pointers) still on the floor. They still had something to prove.

“They shot as poorly as we did against Maine, and a lot of that is credited to our defense,’’ Jackson said.

The Eagles improved to 10-5, dropped NJIT to 5-10, and beat a team they were expected to beat in a way they hadn’t shown all season. Skinner hoped that was the team he’ll see the remainder of the season.

“I’m hoping and they’re planning on this [as] the type of effort we’re going for the rest of the year, and if we do that I can be satisfied with whatever the results are going to be,’’ he said.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.