The Breakdown: Olivier Hanlan’s huge second half

Entering Sunday night, Boston College was 0-3, having suffered increasingly disappointing losses in each of its first three games — at Providence, vs. UMass, and at home to Toledo. That pattern would have continued against Florida Atlantic at the Conte Forum if not for the second-half exploits of Olivier Hanlan. The sophomore scored 27 points after intermission, including 12 in the final four minutes, and the Eagles needed nearly all of them to escape with an 82-79 victory.

Here’s where those 27 points came from:

Olivier Hanlan's second-half shot chart against FAU. Not shown: four free-throw attempts off of intentional end-of-game fouls.

Olivier Hanlan’s second-half shot chart against FAU. Not shown: four free-throw attempts off of intentional end-of-game fouls.

Hanlan’s second half actually wasn’t as efficient as his first — in which he went 4-for-5 for 12 points — but his volume was critical, as BC relied on him for a large portion of its offense down the stretch. All five of the Eagles’ normal offensive possessions in the final four minutes (not counting intentional clock-stopping fouls) ran through Hanlan, and he delivered with nine points, plus a missed three-pointer that was put back by Will Magarity.

The sophomore’s aggression helped BC build its lead to double digits early in the half. One minute into the second period, Hanlan blew by a defender for an easy layup along the right baseline; he set a pseudo-screen at the top of the key to free Joe Rahon for a basket and one on the next possession, then made his own layup and a foul seconds later (though he missed the FT). At the 16:30 mark, Hanlan drilled an NBA-range three-pointer from the left wing, giving the Eagles their largest lead at 13 points.

From then on, however, Hanlan took most of his shots from the outside, missing several from one spot just off the top of the arc. Most of his misses were open spot-up attempts (with the exception of a step-back heat check that followed his deep trey), and he added two more three-pointers from the left wing, but his only points off the dribble in the middle 10 minutes came on a drive from halfcourt at 12:30.

That attitude changed down the stretch, however, as Hanlan drew seven free throws on four critical possessions, each of which started with the Owls within three points. “I was trying to get the easy points, and with the new reffing styles, it was a lot easier to get to the line,” Hanlan said after the game, per the Boston Globe.

Thanks to those new refereeing guidelines, Hanlan didn’t have to get all the way to the basket to earn free throws — three of his fouls were drawn as he was driving from the perimeter, including two in which he was nowhere near a shooting attempt. It might not be very pretty basketball, but the Eagles’ best offense Sunday was for Hanlan to simply get a step on his defender and draw contact.

The biggest foul Hanlan drew, however, came at the rim. With the hosts winning by just one point, Hanlan used this pick-and-roll to draw a switch onto Owls center Justin Raffington:

Hanlan_pick_and_rollScreencaps via WatchESPN

…and, after re-setting, darted past Raffington from the perimeter for a layup and one:

Hanlan_and_oneFAU presented a particularly favorable matchup for Hanlan — none of the Owls’ defenders was quick enough to stop him from penetrating (he hardly ever even needed a screen to get in the paint in the second half), and once he got to the rim, he was rarely challenged by a help defender. So it’s unlikely he’ll have too many 27-point halves in ACC play. But between his three-point shooting and his ability to take advantage of the hand-check rules, Hanlan should be the Eagles’ primary offensive weapon in key spots this season — and he’s the reason why their rough start isn’t even worse.

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