Contrary to popular belief, Boston College coach Steve Donahue knows that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Though it might sound strange to fans and statistic enthusiasts, Donahue said that for the Eagles to improve they need to ask less of star guard Olivier Hanlan.
That BC had just beaten Virginia Tech by 24 points -- its second largest margin of victory in a conference game since joining the ACC -- even though it got only 11 points from Hanlan (who averaged 18.9 PPG entering the game) didn’t hurt the argument.
“It is encouraging to me,” Donahue said of the Eagles managing a 76-52 win with limited input from Hanlan. “I think Olivier has done a great job this year in a lot of ways. But for us to get better, I don’t think we can constantly say [he has to score] 20-25 points. It’s gotta be the right way.”
Donahue said he believes the Eagles (6-14, 2-5 ACC) may have become too reliant on Hanlan, and that they need to get better balance in order to get better results the rest of the way.
And that means they’ll need more performances like they got Wednesday from Ryan Anderson (18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks), Patrick Heckmann (14 points, including 4-for-9 shooting on 3s, off the bench) and, especially, Joe Rahon (team-high 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 5-for-8 on 3s, 6 assists and 5 rebounds).
“I think Joe has gotta be a guy that we rely on to run our team more,” Donahue said. “Not that Olivier can’t, but Olivier’s strengths are scoring the ball, pushing in transition, getting to the rim, knocking shots down. I think Joe’s ability to run the team at the beginning of the shot clock ... and at the end of the shot clock is important.”
Through the first 20 games of 2013-14, Rahon’s averages are down in points (9.5, down from 10.1), assists (3.3, down from 3.7) and steals (0.5, down from 1.0) from last season. But he’s also playing fewer minutes (33.8, down from 35.6), while averaging more rebounds (3.8, up from 3.2) and slightly higher percentages from the field (42.0 percent, up from 40.3 percent) and 3-point range (35.6 percent, up from 34.8 percent).
Against the Hokies, Rahon was key. He hit early and often from the field, giving his teammates a boost, and ran the team well when Hanlan had to hit the bench due to foul trouble.
The sophomore attributed the increased success to the practice time the team had with eight days off after their previous game, a loss against Georgia Tech.
“We had a nice break here where we could really practice three or four days pretty hard and get back to what we do really well,” Rahon said. “And one of the things was less dribbling and more passes.”
At times Wednesday, BC’s passing flummoxed the Hokies.
“When they drove us, we weren’t able to contain the basketball, which put us in scramble situations,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “And then they’re a very good passing team and they passed it, passed it, passed it. I know one time we closed out and rotated four times, they found the fifth guy ... and they knocked the 3 down.”
Donahue said he’s happy with the way the Eagles are shooting the ball, but if the team is going to improve its disappointing record this season it will need to continue to improve defensively and to compete harder and more consistently.
“We’re gonna go to work tomorrow and try to figure out a way to get a little better,” he said. “It helps that you win, but I think we all realize we’ve got a difficult schedule ahead.”
Rahon and Anderson know that handily beating Virginia Tech -- which is in the ACC basement after a second loss to BC this season, at 1-7 -- doesn’t guarantee the Eagles are ready to beat teams like Notre Dame, Virginia or Duke, their next three opponents.
They need to keep getting better, and stop relying so heavily on their star in Hanlan.
“We really don’t worry too much about things in the past, we’re just trying to build every single game,” Anderson said. “So now we’re gonna build from this game, and try to get better from the things that we didn’t do well tonight and try to build for Notre Dame on Saturday.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.