Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Boston College was in the Joyce Center practicing last night when I went into work around6:40. Twenty-three hours later, the chants of “Twenty – *clapclap* - and one – *clapclap*” started ringing through the arena to meet them, eighty minutes before tip. The prediction of BC's record after the night continued with various intensity, being drowned out by the band at various times but always returning as soon as the song was over, until we started ohhh-ing for the tip.

Two hours later, as the Boston College Golden Eagles lost their first game of the season after surviving twenty straight, the chants were brought out again, and the Fighting Irish woke up the echoes one more time.

Echoes of Chris Thomas before he started sucking, when a 6 for 10 shooting night for 19 points and 9 assists was the norm and not an aberration. The echoes of a raucous crowd, and not just the student section, that kept the Joyce jumping after a slow start. The echoes of a coach who guided his team to the Sweet Sixteen two years ago, not the one who has made some terrible decisions throughout this season.

The Irish, besides missing a few free throws, probably couldn’t have played any better. Their interior defense against Craig Smith was as good as it could have possibly been, shutting out the Big East Player of the Year candidate for the second half (4 for 14 shooting on the night including an embarrassing airball late in the game). Mike Brey’s zone, which was a little soft at the edges and allowed a large amount of threes and other open perimeter shots, did the trick to take away BC’s strengths. We took away Smith and tried our damndest to keep Jared Dudley out of the lane, and we let the Nate Doornekamps, Sean Marshalls and Jermaine Watsons of the world try and beat us (They combined for 26 shots).

Sure, just like the Irish like it, we kept things interesting. Colin Falls hit his second consecutive three-pointer to give us a 49-38 lead with fourteen minutes left, and loud chants of “Back-UP Coll-EGE” rippled through the air as Al Skinner tried to get his troops under control. Instead of putting our foot down and snapping the Eagle’s collective neck right then, we gave up some open shots and a quick little 8-0 run. But unlike both Syracuse games, we took the counterpunch, wiped the little bit of blood away from our nose and punched right back, with Chris Thomas coming off his season-long slump to end our drought.

Defensively, as I said before, we couldn’t have played any better on the interior. Chris Quinn blocked 7-footer Doornekamps, who got chants of “U-S-A” when he was at the free throw line at the end of the first half, and Torin Francis continued his ascent to the top of the Big East interior pecking order. After taking out the two best frontcourts in the league, BC and UConn, Torin gets to take his shot against the Chevy Troutman-Chris Taft combination on Saturday. If he gets some help from his buddy Dennis Lattimore again (ten points on smooth 5 for 7 shooting on the night), then there’s no doubt in my mind that the Irish can finally get that big road win.

I’m not going to say this means the Irish can go into the tournament and reach the Final Four, as I don’t believe Boston College is as good as Illinois, Kansas, UNC or some other teams of that caliber, but it certainly makes you feel good. We still need that big road win (Pitt, anyone?) and a good showing at the Big East tournament, but for now, our ticket to the tournament is punched and the rest of the season can be spent getting the rotation just right and getting into a groove for mid-March.

No Big East team had ever been 20-0 before the Eagles knocked off Seton Hall Saturday...

...and thanks to the Irish's efforts on Tuesday night, it'll be at least another season until a school from the conference goes 21-0.


Duke vs UNC tomorrow night? Who misses the NFL, baby, when the Madness starts and the hoops starts flowing through the veins of campuses across America. Bring on the Panthers, bring on the softies of the Big East and bring on the NCAA's.

Bracketville is always welcoming, and you can stay as long as you can. If the Irish play with the intensity and commitment to attacking the basket they had for most of the evening tonight, then their stay might be a little longer than I thought it'd be back on Saturday night.

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