College rivals hoping to cause some backcourt havoc as Bulls teammates

SHARE College rivals hoping to cause some backcourt havoc as Bulls teammates
SHARE College rivals hoping to cause some backcourt havoc as Bulls teammates

The battles were many. And Bulls guard Ryan Arcidiacono loved each one.

In a two-year window — 2014-15 and 2015-16 — Arcidiacono and Villanova went against Bulls teammate Kris Dunn and Providence six times.

In those games, Arcidiacono averaged 14.8 points and Dunn 13.1. And Arcidiacono — and Villanova — won five of those six games.

‘‘I just never really felt that I would be playing alongside [Dunn],’’ Arcidiacono said. ‘‘We were complete rivals in college, and so many battles together. But being in the same backcourt, it’s been a lot of fun.’’

Fun enough that Bulls coach Jim Boylen wants to keep them on the court together, especially with guard Zach LaVine still out with a bum left ankle.

Since LaVine suffered the injury Dec. 13, Boylen has been starting Dunn and Arcidiacono in the backcourt. The Bulls have gone 3-2 during that time, including a 112-92 road victory Sunday against the Cavaliers.

‘‘Well, Archie understands what I want,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I think that’s a huge part of it. He’s tough, which I love. He’s another ballhandler for us, decision-maker and defender. He kind of hits some of the things we need and does it with pride and with effort. He gives you everything he has.’’

The victory against the Cavaliers was only the latest example of that. Dunn had 17 points and seven assists and Arcidiacono 12 points and eight assists. Better yet, they committed only one turnover between them.

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‘‘I think he’s interchangeable,’’ Boylen said of Arcidiacono. ‘‘He can actually [play point guard, shooting guard and small forward] because he fights guys in the post even with a size disadvantage against him. He’s a winning player. I think that’s the greatest compliment I can give him.’’

Arcidiacono said feels the same about Dunn.

‘‘He’s a big-time competitor, and I think we complement each other well,’’ Arcidiacono said. ‘‘He’s so dynamic in the pick-and-roll and finds shooters all around, and I’m spacing the floor for him. Hopefully I can make some shots for him. And I think if I get into something, I can give him a break.’’

Then there are the moments the two-headed monster grows a third head, specifically on defense.

Enter reserve Shaquille Harrison, who has developed into a defensive specialist, giving Boylen another weapon to throw at opposing point guards. Harrison’s strength is picking up ballhandlers full-court, hoping to disrupt the timing and rhythm of the opponent’s offense.

‘‘On the defensive end, I think [Kris and I] both like to get after it,’’ Arcidiacono said. ‘‘[Harrison is] a beast out there, as well.’’

The concept is simple: Use a combination of all three to wear down the opposing backcourt. That seemed to work against the Cavaliers, as the Bulls overcame a halftime deficit by locking down the Cavaliers’ backcourt in the second half.

‘‘I think we’re all interchangeable and can guard multiple positions,’’ Arcidiacono said. ‘‘I think Shaq picks up his 94 [feet], and I can do that, as well. I’m not as quick as Shaq, but I can be physical with guys when they get into the lane. Kris is a combination of both. He can pick a dude up full-court, but we need him to stay out of foul trouble, so it’s a great little three-headed monster we have.’’

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