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BC 93, Bryant 77

Hot-shooting Eagles remain focused

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / December 20, 2010

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The Boston College men’s basketball team is 9-2 and has four more nonconference games before resuming its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule against Georgia Tech Jan. 8. It is not a stretch to project coach Steve Donahue’s Eagles to 13-2 — not bad for a team picked 10th in the ACC preseason poll.

BC might be a handful for any team it faces the rest of the season.

Yesterday’s game against Bryant at Conte Forum was not regarded as a major challenge, and other than the first 10 minutes of the first half, it wasn’t, as the Eagles used a 14-0 spurt to help turn a 26-24 edge into a 51-34 halftime advantage. The Eagles eventually prevailed, 93-77.

In most instances, the Eagles might have looked past Bryant, which is still transitioning from Division 2 to Division 1 and has lost nine of its first 10 games this season and has won only two games the last two seasons. But one of BC’s losses was a 75-67 decision against Yale at home.

“Since the loss to Yale, we are not overlooking any teams,’’ said guard Biko Paris, who tied for the game high with 18 points — all on 3-point shots (6 for 9). “We just wore them out.’’

That they did, beginning with four 3-point bombs that sparked the 14-0 first-half burst. Offensively, the Eagles played as well as they had all season. Five players were in double figures, with center Josh Southern scoring a career-high 18 points.

The Eagles made 13 of 23 shots from long range, committing only five turnovers while handing out 25 assists.

“It was a flawless game in taking care of the ball,’’ said Donahue, who has weaned the Eagles off the more precise and plodding flex offense of former coach Al Skinner to a more fun-and-gun style.

“Part of our game, of who we are, is drive and kick,’’ said Paris, who had five assists. “Coach Donahue has told me that if I’m open, shoot. We are a 3-point-shooting team.’’

The Eagles, who will get forward Cortney Dunn back for Wednesday’s game against Bucknell after he served a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules, are more than that.

Donahue still sees defensive flaws, which were evident at the start yesterday when Bryant freshman guard Matthew Lee, making his first collegiate start, popped the Eagles’ 1-3-1 zone for three quick trifectas. But the Eagles’ overall performance has impressed their new coach.

“Having the skill to do it is one thing,’’ said Donahue, who was asked if he was surprised at how quickly his players had grasped his offensive philosophy. “But I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t [surprised].’’

Bryant coach Tim O’Shea, who signed on three years ago to take the Bulldogs to the next level but also spent four years on Skinner’s staff at BC, said he sees an Eagles team that is on the rise.

“That’s a good team,’’ said O’Shea. “They already have one ACC win on the road [at Maryland], which is like gold. If they can win one more game on the road [in the ACC] and hold serve at home, they are going to get an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament.’’

Such matters are light years away for Donahue and his Eagles. The primary concern is continuing on the path they are now following, which looks much better than many predicted.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

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