CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Glenn Braica had seen the season-opening movie he was watching Saturday afternoon at Boston College before. Fortunately, he knows it probably it’s quite as bad as it looked.
Defending NEC regular season champion St. Francis Brooklyn missed its first 13 shots from the field and went 8:28 without scoring a point to open the season, and never really recovered, getting blown out 75-49 at Conte Forum.
It was eerily similar to Glenn Braica’s first game in charge of the Terriers five years ago when Boston College raced to a 24-2 start and led 38-15 at the break en route to a 79-49 rout. St. Francis Brooklyn scored just 15 points and shot just 5-27 from the field that day. Saturday, after that opening drought, St. Francis finished 5-29 from the field in the first half and trailed 41-16 at the intermission.
But even as a program that could compete with some of the top conferences in the country the last couple seasons, Braica knows that the important thing from some of these early-season games (the Terriers will go to Saint Louis and Louisville next week) is to get better, especially with the turnover in personnel in Brooklyn Heights.
“We haven’t had great experiences here (at BC),” Braica said. “My first time here, I think we were down 28-2 (actually 24-2), and the kids were tight, it was my first game, and they were trying like hell. They just couldn’t make a shot and it was the same today. I told these guys that after that game, we got on a plane and went to South Florida, who was in the Big East then, and took them right to the wire, we should have won the game. So you have to learn from these types of games. We have a lot of new guys and we’re nowhere near where we’re going to have to be, but I think we’ll get there. It could take some time, but there’s a lot of things to learn from a game like this when we look at the tape.”
Replacing NEC Player of the Year Jalen Cannon was never going to be easy, but most people who watched them regularly will admit that trying to find someone to fill Brent Jones’ sneakers may be just as difficult. Even with all their success, the Terriers were not a good shooting team last season, 337th nationally in three-point percentage (29.1%) and 285th in eFG% (46.3%). They got by with ridiculous efficiency on the offensive glass (seventh nationally, 39.6% rate), and despite their struggles Saturday, there were promising signs from Amdy Fall (7 points, 7 rebounds) and Chris Hooper (8 points, 3 blocks) on that front (although their 14 offensive rebounds were only good for a 30.6% rate with so many misses), even against an ACC team.
Glenn Sanabria, who was excellent in a bench role a year ago, scored just five points in 20 minutes and will have to find a way to deal with increased pressure both internally and from opponents, who have moved him up the scouting report. One player who could relieve some of that is junior Jon Doss, who redshirted last year, but eventually hit the Terriers first two field goals of the season, both three-pointers.
Braica used 13 players in the first 14 minutes of the contest, which might make rec youth coaches jealous at its parity. He is known for playing a deep bench anyway, but these early season games can also serve as tryouts for bigger games later.
“I played them all,” Braica said. “A lot of the reason was foul trouble, everybody’s in foul trouble with the new rules, but that’s just the way it is. But we’re still learning about our team. When you play your guarantee games early, you hope you can win, but you realize it’s going to be difficult. We were hoping to have a better showing here, but if we can learn from it, it’s a blessing in disguise.”
One player Braica seems high on is Icelandic freshman Dagur Jonsson, who comes to Brooklyn with impressive offensive numbers, and led the Terriers in points (12) and minutes (31) Saturday. He had all kinds of trouble keeping former Rutgers and Florida standout Eli Carter out of the lane at the other end, though. Carter and highly-touted freshman Jerome Robinson pretty much did what they wanted in the first half, combining for 28 points. However, while Cane Broome fans may beg to differ, Jonsson and Sanabria likely won’t see too many guards of that caliber once conference play starts.
In the end, there’s plenty of work to do for St. Francis Brooklyn. But there’s also time. You may remember last year’s season started 0-5 before their run through the NEC began.
“It’s a team with a lot of moving parts,” Braica said. “We have some veterans and some new guys. We have to get it calmed down offensively. I thought we guarded them well for a while, but then we let our offense affect our defense. We let the fact that the ball wouldn’t go in discourage us.”