The Breakdown: BC’s threes scare Syracuse

It’s no secret that Boston College has struggled this season; the Eagles have played the seventh-toughest schedule this season, according to Ken Pomeroy — and could pass five of the six teams ahead of them by season’s end — but that’s no consolation for a 5-12 record, not for a team that had realistic NCAA tournament hopes entering November. Against their toughest opponent to date, though, BC played possibly its best basketball of the season, taking Syracuse to the wire at the Conte Forum on Monday.

With 12 minutes to play, Lonnie Jackson made a three-pointer late in the shot clock to give the Eagles a 50-44 lead. It’s not hard to figure out how the hosts did it — they played a classic spoiler’s gambit, making lots of three-pointers and keeping the tempo slow. At that point, BC had earned more than half of its points from beyond the arc, shooting 9-for-16 on threes (including six from Lonnie Jackson).

Of course, the Eagles’ upset magic didn’t last; they didn’t make another field goal for the next 11 minutes, and Syracuse recovered to keep their record unblemished. Still, it’s worth a look at how BC scared the Orange last night. Here’s where the Eagles’ three-pointers came from last night, as well as where the primary defender’s location when the shot was taken:

Boston-College_Syracuse_three-pointers_Jan-13Boston College isn’t the first team to attack Syracuse’s 2-3 zone from outside; the Orange has allowed a higher share of three-pointers than all but one other D-I team. But the Orange has actually allowed a relatively low three-point shooting percentage in recent history, making BC’s 9-for-21 performance one of the more successful showings. As you’d expect, some of BC’s shots were of higher quality than others.

In the first half, the Eagles were very eager to shoot threes from anywhere they could — especially from the top of the key, where Jackson, Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan combined to take five shots from 25 feet out or further. Jackson hit two of these bombs, but overall, they weren’t very effective shots for the Eagles — in total, out of seven open shots they took from 25-plus feet, Jackson’s two were the only makes.

Late in the first half, and early in the second, Boston College earned more open shots from normal three-point distance — many of which came from drive-and-kicks or cross-court passes from Rahon and Hanlan — and naturally, those attempts yielded better results. For the game, BC made six of nine open threes from just behind the arc.

That leaves a third category, comprised of shots I considered “well-contested,” from any distance. The Eagles were least efficient on these attempts, although they didn’t take too many of them, finishing 1-for-5 on such shots.

This isn’t exactly groundbreaking — to point out that shorter shots are easy to make than longer ones, and that contested shots are less likely to go in — but a visualization of where players shoot from, and how open they are, can be illustrative. Ultimately, BC’s three-point shooting plan was based on taking attempts that were usually open and in rhythm (all nine made treys were assisted, and most of the misses would have been as well), and despite a cold streak at the end of the game, it was mostly successful, giving the Eagles a chance to beat a great team.

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