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December 11, 2006

Williams gets Boston College back on track

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Two weeks into the season, Boston College appeared to be one of the most overrated team in the country. Now, they're simply known as one of the hottest.

A five-game winning streak - capped by a 73-62 victory over Maryland (9-2) on Sunday night - is to thank for the change in perception.

Boston College (6-2) is playing more like a team that was ranked in the preseason top 25, not one that was upset by Vermont (77-63) and Providence (73-64) in November.

Center Sean Williams has sparked the turnaround. The 6-foot-10 junior was suspended for the first two games for violating team rules.

Williams provides a gigantic low post presence that the Eagles had been missing. Long known as a shot-blocking specialist, the big man is swatting six shots a game.

Williams has also emerged as a legitimate scoring threat. He is averaging 11.2 points a game, more than three times that of his 3.1 ppg average last season.

The offensive improvement has made Williams a triple-double threat. He scored 10 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked seven shots against Maryland.

Combine that production with that of versatile star Jared Dudley (19.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 3.9 apg), and the Eagles have a solid one-two punch.

Check out what other developments came about in What We Learned Last Week.

Help On the Way for Tigers
Don't start calling LSU (5-2) overrated because of its 76-75 overtime loss to unranked Texas (6-2) in Houston on Sunday night.

The Tigers were missing two valuable players and were down to a rotation of just six. Forward Darrell Lazare missed his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle. Guard Terry Martin, a Texas Tech transfer, won't be eligible for at least six more days.

With so little depth, Glen Davis and Garrett Temple played all 45 minutes and Tasmin Mitchell missed just 17 seconds of the game. Outside of Tack Minor, no reserve played more than two minutes.

Davis was noticeably tired down the stretch, missing his last three field goal attempts.

Lazare and Martin will provide a significant boost upon their return. Lazare averaged 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in the first five games. Martin, a top 75 prospect, averaged 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds before leaving Texas Tech last season.

Judging the Jackets
Georgia Tech (6-3) was supposed to be one of the nation's most improved teams this season. The Jackets, who were ranked No. 23 in the preseason AP poll despite a 11-17 record last season, looked every bit the part early. They beat Purdue (79-61) and came back from a double-digit deficit to get past Memphis (92-85) at the Maui Invitational.

But the Jackets have struggled of late, falling on the road at Miami (90-82) and Vanderbilt (73-64). So what went wrong? Opinions tend to differ.

Guard Mario West blames their defense.

"We are not playing defense the way we are capable of playing it," said West after the loss to Vanderbilt. "It all starts on defense. We are allowing the top opposing scorers to get their average and above, especially on the perimeter. We have got to start slowing those guys down."

Miami guard Jack McClinton scored 22 points against the Jackets, nearly right at his average of 21 ppg. Guard Anthony Harris, who averages 8.4 points, was particularly damaging. He scored a season-high 21 points against Georgia Tech.

Vanderbilt guard Shan Foster entered the Georgia Tech matchup averaging 14.7 points and scored 25, hitting four of seven 3-pointers.

Tech coach Paul Hewitt isn't pleased with his team's defensive effort either, but believes taking care of the ball and playing too selfishly are bigger problems.

Three different starters had at least four turnovers and the Jackets racked up 25 total turnovers against the Commodores (5-3).

"I thought we played good defensively for stretches, but you can't give up live-ball turnovers," Hewitt said. "The turnovers are a product of not being physical enough. We are not giving it up for the team."

The Jackets will have some time to fix their problems before they grow too costly. The easiest part of their schedule is here. They play five consecutive home games against Centenary, Georgia, Troy, St. Francis-Pa., and Winston-Salem.

Player Spotlight
Alabama sophomore Richard Hendrix played the best game of his young career, scoring a career-high 34 points (15-of-19 from the field) and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Tide's 92-58 rout of Alabama State.
It's tough not to include Wisconsin's Alando Tucker in a discussion about the nation's greatest players after watching his performance in the Badgers' 70-66 win at Marquette. Tucker was nearly unstoppable in the mid-range area, scoring a game-high 28 points and going 13-of-22 from the field. It was the sixth time this season that Tucker has broken the 20-point barrier.
Shutting down Arizona star freshman Chase Budinger is apparently not the way to stop the Wildcats. San Diego State learned that lesson in a 69-48 loss, their first defeat of the season. Budinger, who grew up in the San Diego suburbs, scored a season-low five points against SDSU. Marcus Williams stepped up with one of the best games of his career, scoring 21 points and grabbing 16 rebounds for Arizona.
Anybody who forgot that Tennessee's Chris Lofton is a great shooter got a big reminder in the Vols' 76-58 rout of visiting Memphis. Lofton hit 6-of-11 3-pointers, some from NBA range, and scored a career-high 34 points.
Texas A&M guard Acie Law bounced back from one of the worst games of his career with one of his best. After a 1-for-11 shooting performance in a loss at LSU, he scored a game-high 21 points and dished out four assists in a hard-fought 65-62 loss to top-ranked UCLA in Anaheim, Calif. Law was able to consistently penetrate into the paint and score off floaters and runners.
Freshman Spotlight
The biggest difference-maker in Gonzaga's 97-77 win over in-state rival Washington was Matt Bouldin. The versatile wing kept getting to the basket and scored 21 points, going 9-for-12 from the field. He also handed out five assists.
Winning a heated recruiting battle for point guard Eugene Harvey is already paying dividends for Seton Hall. Harvey, the No. 67 player in the country in the 2006 class, took over in the Pirates' 69-59 win over Penn State. Harvey scored 27 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists and added two steals.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.

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