MEN'S BASKETBALL: Many Missed Opportunities Spoil Eagles’ Effort
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 03:01
In a duel with No. 2 Syracuse that featured seven lead changes, the Boston College men’s basketball team looked to meet Conte Forum’s energy and cement a monumental upset via the big play. Yet Monday night’s 69-59 loss came down to execution of fundamentals at the charity stripe and beneath the rim.
Getting Back to Basics
The Eagles entered their matchup with the Orange as one of the nation’s top foul-shooting teams. By night’s end, their uncharacteristic miscues at the line translated to a missed opportunity for a momentum-shifting victory.
“If you’re going to beat the No. 2 team in the country, you’re probably going to have to shoot fouls,” said head coach Steve Donahue after the game.
Despite a solid 50 percent shooting performance from the field, the Eagles only managed to convert on 16 of their 26 free-throw attempts. Juniors Ryan Anderson and Eddie Odio were responsible for nine of the team’s 10 misses from the charity stripe in the 10-point loss.
“It just didn’t really feel comfortable up there at the line,” Anderson said on Wednesday. “I’ve been shooting it pretty well before that this year, I think in the 70s, but it’s just nothing but repetitions—it’s something I just have to keep practicing every day. “
Donahue recognized that missed chances to steal points from the nation’s second-ranked squad can quickly derail an upset bid.
“If we shoot them [free throws] tonight, we may win besides everything else,” Donahue said. “That’s something that we’ve proven we’re good at, but we just weren’t tonight.”
While the Eagles struggled at the line, they were also haunted by their inability to compete with their opponent’s depth. After tweaking his ankle during warm ups, BC center Dennis Clifford withdrew to the sidelines as his team struggled to limit Syracuse’s second-chance opportunities. The Eagles allowed the Orange to tally 14 offensive rebounds and only mustered seven of their own, paving the way for a 32-12 Syracuse advantage in points in the paint.
As a close struggle entered its final minutes, the visiting team was bolstered by roster depth that Donahue’s squad could not match. Syracuse’s ability to sub in a steady rotation of players maintained its quickness on the court—a quickness that translated to 13 steals. When the dust settled, the Orange bench had outscored BC’s subs 18-0.
The BC Defense’s Valiant Effort
Although BC’s defense was vulnerable to Syracuse scoring runs—including a 14-0 second half rally that put the game out of reach—it managed to control the defensive glass and stall the Orange offense enough to keep the contest within reach for much of the game.
The effort to stall the opponent’s offensive attack was also enough to earn recognition from Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.
“Our defense is the only thing that allowed us to have a lead at the half court,” he said.
While marred by the defeat, Donahue saw his defense’s performance as a step forward after already surrendering 80 points or more on seven different occasions this season. He credited the improvement to challenging shots with a restored pride in guarding the opponents in front of his players.
“We’ve done a good job with our core principles over the last three weeks to a month,” Donahue said.
Coming off his game-winning shot in a victory over Virginia Tech, junior guard Lonnie Jackson provided another clutch performance with a team-high 18 points—all from behind the arc.
“My teammates were looking for me,” Jackson said, “and that instills confidence in me.”
Jackson’s accurate shooting from deep catalyzed BC’s upset threat, and Donahue sees the guard’s contributions on the court in the wake of missing time due to injury as a vital asset to the Eagles moving forward.
“I think he’s made us a much better basketball team,” Donahue said. “Not only because he can make shots, but he has a sense of where to be, where to put other people, and understanding what the coaches are trying to do.”