BC tops St. Francis (N.Y.) in Donahue debut 79-49
BOSTON (AP)—Steve Donahue took the names off the back of his players’ jerseys. He took his suit jacket off and shouted out instructions in his shirtsleeves.
And, long before it was over, he took out his starters in an easy debut at Boston College.
Joe Trapani had 20 points with eight rebounds and the Eagles scored 21 straight points early in the first half to beat St. Francis (N.Y.) 79-49 on Friday night and give Donahue a victory in his first game at BC.
“It’s important for this group to get off to a good start,” said Donahue, who won three straight Ivy League titles at Cornell before being hired to replace Al Skinner in Chestnut Hill. “We’ve done a lot of work for the past six months. I want them to be rewarded for that.”
Corey Raji had 17 points and nine rebounds and Reggie Jackson scored 17 for the Eagles, who took a 24-2 lead while holding the Terriers scoreless for more than 9 minutes.
Ricky Cadell scored 14 for St. Francis and Akeem Bennett scored 11. Starting forward Stefan Perunicic was 0-for-9 from 3-point range, and 1-for-10 overall for 2 points.
“We were very, very nervous at the beginning of the game,” St. Francis coach Glenn Braica said. “A lot of these guys were playing their first college game. … It’s a learning experience for us.”
The Eagles struggled to put their first points on the board, going scoreless for the first 2:21. After Raji hit a 3-pointer and Cadell scored for St. Francis, BC scored the next 21 points—10 from Raji, six from Jackson and five from Trapani.
“I knew it was going to be a very tough game because of the way they play. And if we didn’t hit shots early it was going to be a long night,” said Braica, a longtime St. John’s assistant who was making his head coaching debut. “We kind of stopped them the first couple of possessions of the game, didn’t hit our shots and kind of lost our composure.”
BC fired Al Skinner last spring after 13 years during which he became the winningest coach in school history. Donahue came in and stressed teamwork— pulling the names off jerseys, requiring players to wear the same colored socks and shoes and having them stretch and warm up together.
And he promised a more up-tempo style of play that the students and other fans would find more exciting.
He was half right.
A crowd of just a few hundred scattered through Conte Forum watched the Eagles open the season against the overmatched Terriers. An e-mail blast during the week offered two free tickets to all faculty and staff, and another offered discounts to football season ticket-holders; few appeared to take them up on it.
BC showed it was willing to run, putting the ball up early in possessions. The Eagles took 14 3-pointers in the first half—they averaged only 15.7 in a game last year—but made only two.
“Our execution wasn’t as sharp as I would hope,” Donahue said, adding that he was pleased with the way his team approached the game.
“You’re up by a lot, and I didn’t think we let down. I didn’t see them goofing off. I thought we brought the intensity the whole 40 minutes; guys were enthusiastic on the bench, and businesslike,” he said. “That’s a big step. I was concerned with that early on when I got here. We would have a good practice for about 20 minutes, and guys would lost their concentration.”
Donahue led the Big Red to a 29-5 record last season—the most wins in Ivy history—and the school’s first ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 in 59 years. Cornell beat favored Temple and Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament to become the first Ivy team to reach the Sweet 16 in more than three decades; they lost to top-seeded Kentucky 62-45 in the East Regional semifinals.
BC is 21-2 all-time in season openers in Conte Forum, including eight straight home openers.
Starting center Josh Southern missed the game because of minor surgery. He is expected the be ready for Thursday night’s game against Yale.