Well, this is exactly what I feared, Josh McRoberts totally having his way against BC's suddenly weak front line, most notably John Oates, in an easy 75-61 win over the Eagles tonight. The Soft One (1 point, 1 rebound in 16 invisible minutes) has always been limited on defense, but even I was surprised at how bad McRoberts made him look. McRoberts scored at will, grabbed rebounds, blocked shots, and generally shoved Oates around like he was a rag doll. McRoberts is no Bill Walton, but he can make bad competition look bad, and tonight was Exhibit A. The primary storyline of this game was rebounding, where the Dukies absolutely slaughtered BC (41-29 total). The edge was even more pronounced on Duke's offensive glass, where the Blue Devils converted a 15-12 advantage into countless second chance points.
But Oates was only half the story. The other half was the regression of Sean Marshall. Marshall was miserable, and it wasn't just a case of the shots not falling. What irks me most is that Marshall constantly put himself in a position to fail (as is his wont), driving into the paint, and taking bad, reckless, off balance shots. Someone needs to tell Marshall that he just can't finish, so driving into taller frontcourt players is a bad idea, especially since he shoots on the way down, giving the competition time to recover whatever step he has to block his shot. Marshall should tee up from 3 when he gets an open look, or drive for dunks when the lane is open. Other than that, he should look to pass on offense.
Marshall also singlehandely killed the last chance BC had at a rally. Down 63-57 with 4 minutes left, he missed an open 3, then fouled Lance Thomas on the fastbreak, who went to the line and converted. The next possession, Marshall was fouled and missed the front end of the 1 and 1 (a turnover at the stripe). Duke capitalized by making a couple more free throws and pushing the lead to 10. Game over. Marshall's line for the day? 2-11, 7 points, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls. That's not gonna do it Sean, not against Duke.
The thing I got out of this game is that going forward BC really has to be hitting on all cylinders offensively to steal some Ws against good competition, because their defense and rebounding are just not good enough to stop anyone. Tonight, they didn't have nearly the firepower they needed from their 3 big scorers (Marshall, Rice, Dudley). Marshall sucked, and Tyrese Rice was also off. Rice handled the ball well (only 1 turnover) and had some nice drives, but his perimiter shot wasn't falling, especially from international waters (1-7). In fairness, Duke had a nice gameplan for him, giving crappy white boy Greg Paulus a lot of help D, but Rice didn't help his cause with his bricklaying. Dudley gave them a decent, but not great game (17 points, 8 rebounds), so BC really struggled to score.
I was pleasantly surprised by Tyrelle Blair. As I have said in prior postings, I think Blair is a backup center, but if the guy he is backing up is Oates, a pretty strong case can be made for him to start by default, and I think Skinner needs to take a look at that. Blair submitted a very nice line of 9 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks, and held his own at times against McRoberts. Shamari Spears also played well. He shot only 5-14 from the floor, but a few of those shots just bled off the rim, so his shooting percentage could have been a lot better had the ball rolled his way. And I really liked the way Spears battled, he boxed people out and went hard after rebounds. I think he is shaping into a nice player.
This was not that bad a loss. I did not expect BC to win, and the L does not kill them. After all, many good teams have gone down at Cameron over the years, it's a tough place to play. The "glass is half full" view is that BC just played OK, yet were within 6 with the ball very late in the game. I like our chances in Round Two at Conte.
BC gets a respite against Hartford on Wednesday. In seasons past, I have considered these non-conference January games dangerous because of the letdown factor, but BC is a team that needs to make some adjustments, maybe get another guy into the rotation to take some of the stress off the regulars. So I welcome it.