Irish set sights on Eagles in ACC affair

Feb 21, 2015 - 3:50 PM Chestnut Hill, MA ( - The 10th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish will attempt to keep within striking distance of the top spot in the ACC, as they take on the Boston College Eagles in a conference clash at the Conte Forum on Saturday.

Mike Brey's Irish are sitting in second place in the conference standings at a strong 11-3. They trail only second-ranked Virginia (12-1) and enter this contest with wins in two straight and three of their last four games. Notre Dame was last in action on Tuesday, knocking off Wake Forest in South Bend, 88-75.

Any thoughts of a conference title run in Jim Christian's first season in Chestnut Hill have long disappeared. Boston College has shown rare glimpses of strong play, but nothing consistent. The league slate has been extremely daunting, with BC sitting in the conference cellar with just one ACC win in 12 tries. The Eagles enter this game with an ugly seven-game losing streak in tow and are just 7-7 at home this year. They dropped a 69-60 decision at Florida State last time out.

Notre Dame holds a 14-10 advantage in the all-time series with Boston College. The Irish have won eight of the last nine meetings, and are seeking the regular-season sweep after earning a 71-63 decision at Purcell Pavilion back on Feb. 4.

Notre Dame erupted for 80+ points for the fifth time in ACC play earlier in the week, with the 88 points against Wake Forest representing an ACC-best for the team. The Demon Deacons came to play, but the Irish were an impressive 27- of-28 from the free-throw line, including hitting their last 24 free-throws in a row to earn yet another win. In all, five Notre Dame players notched double figures in the win, led by All-America candidate Jerian Grant's 24 points. He was followed in the scoring column by Pat Connaughton (13 pts), Zach Auguste (12 pts), Steve Vasturia (12 pts) and V.J. Beachem (10 pts). Notre Dame committed just eight turnovers in the game and knocked down 11 3-pointers.

Inflated scoring totals have been the norm for Notre Dame this season, which ranks among the nation's best in both scoring (79.5 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.508), including an impressive .401 from behind the arc. Grant is a viable candidate for National Player of the Year. The 6-5 senior is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor (.498) and ranks fifth in the ACC in scoring (17.3 ppg) and first in assists (6.4 apg). Connaughton (13.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg) plays much bigger than his 6-5 frame. Auguste (12.7 ppg) and Demetrius Jackson (12.4 ppg) can light up a scoreboard as well.

Boston College has its own explosive scorer in veteran guard Olivier Hanlan. The 6-4 junior has gone over 30 points in three of his last four games and currently leads the ACC in scoring at 18.6 ppg. Hanlan somehow finds the time to be a solid facilitator as well, doling out a team-best 4.3 apg. Senior guard Aaron Brown is another top scoring threat for BC at 14.8 ppg, but the scoring dries up fast after that. Patrick Heckmann is a distant third in the scoring column for BC at 8.2 ppg.

Hanlan was responsible for more than half of Boston College's offense against Florida State this week, but his 32 points were for naught, as the rest of the roster came up small in a loss to the Seminoles. Hanlan launched up 22 of the team's 50 shots in the game and that kind of ball movement won't lead to many wins. Brown was once again the only other Eagle that really contributed, finishing with 15 points in the loss.

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