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BC devises defense mechanism

Duke at BC
ACC men's basketball
When: Tonight, 9
Where: Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill
TV, radio: ESPN, WEEI (850)

The answer: Sean Marshall.

The question: Who will guard J.J. Redick when second-ranked Duke (19-1, 7-0) comes calling on the No. 15 Boston College men's basketball team in tonight's Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at Conte Forum?

To hear BC coach Al Skinner tell the media mob that turned out for yesterday's practice at Power Gym, it isn't as though Marshall drew a short straw.

As far as Skinner is concerned, there wasn't skullduggery involved in handing Marshall, a 6-foot-6-inch, 212-pound junior from Rialto, Calif., the daunting assignment of guarding the 6-4, 190-pound senior who ranks as the ACC's leading scorer (second nationally) with an average of 27.8 points per game.

''I think Redick is a 2-guard and Sean's a 2-guard, so I think the math is kind of easy," said Skinner, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. ''We're not rocket scientists here, so we do it kind of simply. They both play the same positions, so he's got to guard him. We're not trying to get really tricky about it. He's just got to go out and play his tail off.

''But as we talked about it, we don't have one guy guard the ball -- all five guys guard the ball. So it's his primary responsibility, but it's everybody else's responsibility to help defend him."

''The way we play defense, it's more a team effort," Marshall said. ''They always assign one player to one person, but we play a lot of matchup zone, and we switch off, all our guards switch with everybody. We're going to have to focus on him as a team and try to stop him as a team."

Led by bruising 6-7, 250-pound senior forward Craig Smith, who teamed with Duke's Shelden Williams to win gold at the World University Games in Turkey last summer, the Eagles (16-4, 4-3) might very well rank as the ACC's hottest team, having rebounded from an 0-3 conference start to win their last five.

The turning point in BC's season, however, came in a soul-searching meeting senior guard Louis Hinnant called the day after the Eagles absorbed a 78-60 loss to North Carolina State Jan. 10 that dropped BC's record to 0-3 in the ACC.

''That talk really turned things around," Smith said.

It placed an emphasis on the defensive commitment it will take against a player of Redick's caliber. Redick, an All-American and Rupp National Player of the Year last season, has averaged 32.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in Duke's last two games: an 80-67 victory at Virginia Tech Jan. 26 and an 82-63 triumph over Virginia last Saturday. In the latter, he poured in a game-high 40 points on 11-for-13 shooting, including 8 of 10 from the 3-point arc.

''He's definitely going to be . . . I'm not going to say tough to stop because nobody's been able to stop him at all," said Hinnant. ''But we've just got to contain him as much as possible and try to keep him under 40, as ridiculous as that might sound.

''I think the guys on this team have a lot of pride. I think for the most part we're going to try and make him work for every shot."

So what must BC defenders not do in guarding Redick?

''Lose him," Hinnant said. ''You can't lose him at all. For the entire 40 minutes, you can't take a play off against him or he'll definitely hurt you. All five players on the court are going to have to be able to move pretty well."

Said Marshall, ''I think you can't, obviously, let him shoot. I think it's more important as a defender to make him put it on the floor. I think he's a great shooter and you don't want to let him get a rhythm. You've got to contest every shot, but he's made contested shots, and that's always difficult for a defender.

''That's all you can do, just contest every shot and hope that he misses. If you take the ball out of his hands, then it's hard for a guy to score."

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