Reggie Jackson and the Boston College men's basketball team found themselves in a big hole early in the first half of their game against Bucknell on Wednesday night.
Trailing 37-21 with 8:21 left in the first half, the Eagles had two choices: pack it in or chip away at the lead. Last year's BC squad, under former coach Al Skinner, probably would have been too discouraged to attempt a comeback.
But that's not the way Jackson and the 2010 Eagles do business. Instead of folding to the pressure, Boston College took a play-by-play approach and chipped away at the Bison lead over the final 28 minutes and ultimately walked away with a hard-fought 84-80 win.
While the deficit was discouraging, Jackson made sure to let his teammates know that the game was far from over.
"Honestly, I was just preaching to my guys play-by-play," said Jackson, who scored 15 of his team-high 22 points in the second half. "I never really knew [the lead] was by 16. I was just telling them let's cut it down maybe by four each TV timeout and just go by that and just try to win each four minutes and eventually we'd be in the game, and it paid off."
The comeback victory was the Eagles' seventh in a row and improved Boston College's record to 10-2. The impressive display was just the latest example of the change of culture issued in by new head coach Steve Donahue. In short, this Eagles' team isn't going to be distracted by anything.
"My mindset going into the game, I just knew it was going to be a hard game," Donahue said. "I don't look at stats around the country, but we're probably the two best assist-to-turnover teams in the country. Both teams just really execute."
Wednesday night's game was the first time this season that the Eagles faced a huge deficit right off the bat. The Bison made five of their first seven three-pointers en route to their early lead. Instead of panicking and changing the game plan, Donahue kept his cool and approached the deficit on a long-term basis.
"Every shot went in there for a while," said Donahue. "The only goo thing was that they scored like 35 points in the first ten minutes, so I thought, at least the game is long here. I think if we continually fight through it and go after it, I thought it could be a real rewarding game. I almost look at it as if, you know, embrace this challenge, don't fight the situation. Let's go have some fun, make plays."
Donahue's Eagles did just that, bringing the 16-point deficit down to three by halftime and ultimately erasing the deficit entirely early in the second half.
Even though Donahue kept his cool, he did acknowledge the fact that there is a danger in having his players think that they have to match the opponent's output offensively, instead of shutting them down.
Thankfully, the Eagles did not fall into that trap. Boston College was able to shut down Bucknell's scoring front temporarily, using a 14-0 run to pull itself back into the game late in the first half. In the second half, the Eagles were able to fend off the Bison offensive attack while receiving an outstanding offensive performance from Jackson.
"He's obviously an incredible player," Donahue said about Jackson. "The maturity level tonight I think is great. The kid [Bryan] Cohen is the Patriots League Defensive Player of the Year]. He locked up a couple of our guys over the years in Cornell. Part of you thinks Reggie doesn't understand that this kid can lock him up. He didn't allow that. I saw he got rid of the ball quickly, especially early. He didn't pound the ball. Then, when he took his opportunities, he took ten shots tonight and scored 22 points, six assists, no turnovers. I thought he picked his spots perfectly when we really needed him."
Jackson was an impressive 8-for-10 from the field and made 3-of-4 threes, all of which came at crucial points in the game. His performance was not surprising, as many have come to expects outings like this from Jackson this year.
Through 12 games, Jackson is the Eagles MVP and is one of the leading candidates to win the ACC Player of the Year award. Some of his improvement has come though maturation and hard work ,but a good deal of it has come through Donahue's new system.
No one can argue with Donahue's methods, as he has the Eagles playing fundamentally solid basketball. The Eagles performance against Bucknell was a showcase of the grit and determination that this Boston College team possesses.
And as we saw on Wednesday night, any team that tries to get in their way will likely wind up paying the price.