CHESTNUT HILL - Dennis Clifford stole the show in his unofficial college debut, scoring a team-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field as the Boston College Eagles defeated the American International Yellow Jackets, 70-66, in their first and only scrimmage of the season on Saturday afternoon at Conte Forum.
"It was great to actually play with the team," said Clifford. "We're battling each other every day in practice, so it was definitely great to work as one unit."
"I thought we played 20 minutes of decent basketball, especially on the defensive side," said second-year Eagles coach Steve Donahue. "We kept them out of the lane, made them shoot tough shots, didn't foul - they didn't get a foul at all except for the technical to start the game."
Clifford led an efficient Eagles shooting attack, as BC made 22-of-39 shots for a 56.4 percent clip. Boston College also put forth a solid effort from long distance, making 6-of-17 threes - three of which came from graduate student John Cahill, who is one of four returning players from last year's team. Cahill finished with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting (3-of-3 from three-point range) in 29 minutes for the Eagles.
"It's the first time we're all getting out there on the main court in front of the crowd, so a lot of stuff is going to come with that," said Cahill. "It's a lot different than practice, the speed of the game is a lot different. We knew they were a pretty good team, they're scrappy. We have a lot of good things, definitely [things] to work on, but with a young team there's going to be those times. A win's a win and we'll take that and then we've just got to keep working."
The area of concern for the Eagles was their turnovers, registering 21 total giveaways. Patrick Heckmann (16 points, 3-of-7 FG, 2-of-5 3PT, 8-of-10 FTs, five rebounds) had a game-high six turnovers for BC, Jordan Daniels (six points, 2-of-4 FG) had four giveaways and Matt Humphrey (6 points, 1-of-5 FG, 4-of-5 FT) - who fouled out on a technical foul late in the second half - turned the ball over three times.
"It's tough," Cahill said about the Eagles' turnovers. "They're a scrappy team, they were getting into us. Early on, we kind of let them speed us up a little bit and get us out of our game, and we can't let them do that. We had the same thing in the Seton Hall game. It's definitely something we're working on."
The game started with a weird twist, as a technical foul was assessed to Boston College after a player dunked in the pre-game warm ups, which is a violation. Spencer Braithwaite made both free throws to put AIC up 2-0.
After that, it was all Boston College. BC took a 10-7 lead with 16:17 left in the first half, and the Eagles began to pull away in the next eight minutes, using a 12-6 run to take a 22-13 lead with 8:08 to play before halftime. BC closed out the half with an 11-8 eight run to grab a 33-21 advantage at the intermission.
It didn't take long for the Eagles to pull away in the second half, as they jumped ahead 45-30 by the 16:21 mark. But the Yellow Jackets wouldn't go away that easily, as they went on a 6-1 run from the 12:02 mark to the 10:20 mark to pull themselves within five points. But the Eagles were able to hold onto the lead, even building it up to 13 points at 62-49 with 6:48 to go. Once again, AIC worked diligently to get back into the game, cutting BC's lead to 70-64 with one minute remaining in the half, but couldn't bridge the gap in the final few ticks. A Cahill foul with less than one second left gave AIC two more points, bringing the game to its final score.
"In the second half, unfortunately, we're not there to play 40 minutes," Donahue said. "It's a couple things. One, we're playing a lot of guys. I'm trying to figure out who deserves to be out there in situations. I thought America International did a good job of just working the clock, making sure they got a good shot. They played very well, and we didn't. That's why these games are good. They give you a chance to figure that out and figure that out and work on it."
Ryan Anderson finished with seven points and a team-high seven rebounds in his debut for Boston College. David Campbell scored a game-high 20 points and had five rebounds while Braithwaite added 19 points for AIC.
Boston College opens the season against UNH on Monday, November 14 at Conte Forum.