BC shines on both ends of spectrum

NEWTON, Mass. -- Junior guard Reggie Jackson drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key 32 seconds into the game, and he and Boston College were off and running to a big day and an important 76-72 win over Maryland at Conte Forum.

Jackson was hot all game and put up a career-high 31 points and matched a season best with eight rebounds.

That was expected of BC's best player.

More surprising were the contributions of another senior guard, a fellow by the name of John Cahill, the son of a top-notch college referee and until this season known in basketball circles around campus as an intramural star and a guy who played on the BC scout team.

The women's scout team, that is.

Saturday, Cahill helped bring the Terrapins down and boost BC's overall record to 16-9 and Atlantic Coast Conference mark to 6-5. Maryland fell to 16-9 and 5-5.

"He's a very special player," said senior forward Corey Raji. "John is a huge spark off the bench."

Thing is, Cahill goes long stretches without getting off the bench.

Not Saturday.

Never had Cahill, in his first year as maybe the most true walk-on varsity player you'll find, played more than eight minutes in a game. Never had he scored more than five points in a game. Heck, he hadn't scored a point in the three ACC games he had played in.

So there was coach Steve Donahue calling for Cahill barely five minutes in against Maryland. Less than half a minute later, there was Cahill in the left corner lining up and drilling a 3-pointer for his first ACC points ever.

Less than two minutes after that, there was Cahill alone in the right corner, where Raji found him. Yup. Nailed that one, too.

"He's a very good shooter, so he spaces people out," Donahue said. "He knows how to play. And he can defend. "

Donahue went on for a bit about the guy from the basketball family and Albany, N.Y., who played at Christian Brothers Academy and got looks from Division III teams but decided to come to Boston College and pass on college basketball.

Or so he thought.

The Eagles, after the roster turnover that came with a coaching change, were short on bodies and put out a call before the start of the season. Cahill said why not, and decided to give it a shot as a walk-on.

Saturday, he made three of his four 3-point shots for nine points.

For Donahue, the strength of this team is in its offense. Against Maryland, the Eagles balanced the first and second halves nicely. They were 13-of-28 from the field in the first half, 14-of-28 in the second half. They made 5 of 13 3-pointers in each half.

Jackson, Donahue noted, is so much better when he mixes things up and goes to the basket because that helps get him better looks from the outside and opens things up for everybody else. Jackson made five of his seven shots from behind the arc and was 12-for-16 from the field overall.

He strung together a couple of nice drives and layups and then a long 3-pointer to extend BC's lead to 63-52 with seven minutes to play.

Donahue has been, well, encouraging him to get to the basket.

"He got on me [recently]," Jackson said of Donahue. "We bumped heads a little bit. He told me I wasn't playing like the old me. He told me, basically, I'm so long and quick, if I stay low and attack off my first dribble, then good things will happen -- finding open people or getting to the basket."

Donahue liked his team's defense in the second half, particularly against sophomore forward Jordan Williams, Maryland's 6-foot-10 and 260-pound load in the middle. Williams had 12 points and eight rebounds. He had 27 and 13 in BC's 79-75 win at Maryland on Dec. 12.

And Donahue loved the offense.

"At the offensive end we played like we're capable of playing," he said. "We made very intelligent decisions. Reggie made every right decision the whole game."

Cahill, whose father, John, has worked Final Fours and national championship games as an official, made a bunch of right decisions, too.

He had played 17 minutes total in ACC games this season and played 25 on Saturday. His nine points nearly doubled his point total for the season at 20. He took a couple of charges and had two rebounds.

In maybe the best indicator of the kind of game he had, Cahill was still in a close game in the closing seconds.

"He's an intelligent player," Donahue said. "I know he's not going to lose an assignment. I know if there's a loose ball, he's going to dive on it. I know if a guy's driving in out of control, he's going to draw the charge."

Donahue saw it when Cahill started working out with BC and especially when the coach divided the team into three groups to practice after the loss to Yale in the second game of the season. Cahill shined.

"He was moving the ball and making shots and driving by people and I'm like, 'Why aren't I playing this kid? Because he's a walk-on?'" Donahue said.

Still the season went on and playing time was hard to come by. Donahue said Saturday he probably should have played Cahill in BC's loss at Clemson last Tuesday.

"I don't know why I didn't," Donahue said. "I told myself, We've got to get him in there."

He likely will be saying that more often from now on.