Top Story, Men's Basketball

Duke’s Okafor Too Much For Eagles To Handle In Hoops Loss

Boston College men’s basketball travelled down to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday afternoon to take on the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils.

The Eagles’ first ACC matchup of the season played out with few surprises—Duke’s high-powered offense led by a dominant big man freshman out-talented a smaller, rebuilding program. BC did display flashes of promise in its first game of 2015, but the team’s consistent inconsistency proved little challenge for the Blue Devils, who took an 85-62 win to open the new year.

The uncontested story of the game was Duke’s freshman center Jahlil Okafor, who continues to make his case as the frontrunner for the Naismith Award winner. He entered Saturday leading his team with 18.8 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game, not to mention a block and half. In his first-ever ACC game, Okafor didn’t fail to disappoint. He finished with 28 points in 28 minutes, as well as eight boards.

It’s hard to blame BC for struggling to disrupt Okafor. The Eagles tried to keep a body firmly on him for the first part of the game, preventing him from gaining any easy field goals. When Okafor did manage to make a move to the hoop, BC fouled him, hoping to expose the biggest flaw of Okafor’s game: his free throw shooting.

Okafor entered the contest averaging just 50 percent at the line on under five attempts per game. Against BC, however, he showed no weakness, sinking 14 of 17, raising his season percentage to 57.3. His center counterpart, Dennis Clifford, fouled out in the second half after playing just 18 minutes. Will Magarity and Eddie Odio, the two other Eagles that mainly defended Okafor, finished with three fouls each.

In the first ten minutes, before the foul trouble kicked in for BC, the Eagles kept it close. They played strong, aggressive defense, hanging within a few points of Duke. The initial catalyst: none other than Olivier Hanlan. The point guard rediscovered his touch, finishing at the rim where he hadn’t managed to in other games this year. He also took advantage of his trips to the line, knocking down six-of-seven on his way to a team-high 22 points.

Other than Hanlan, BC struggled to find any consistent means of scoring. With Clifford relegated to the bench and Hanlan targeted by Duke’s D., the Eagles managed just four points in the final 10 minutes of the half, allowing their opponents to build a 16-point lead by the half. Aaron Brown, who was BC’s top scorer in non-conference play, took just two shots in the first half, missing both. He finished with 11 points in the game but went just five-of-13 from the field.

In the second, things didn’t particularly change. BC did hit a bit of a hot streak of shooting to start, cutting the deficit to 10 points several times, but Duke quickly extended it back to a 20-point game once the Eagles cooled off.

The Eagles didn’t play their best game, but they did show signs of promise. They committed just 11 turnovers in the game, the same as Duke. They generally looked composed in front of one of the most intense and intimidating crowds in college basketball. They responded well after each of Jim Christian’s timeouts, even if they couldn’t make it last.

As frustrating as it must be for Christian, this game came down a matter of talent. To be sure, certain factors could and should have swung in BC’s favor—Duke having more offensive rebounds than BC had defensive ones, for example—but in this rebuilding stage, the Eagles will have to seriously outperform their more talented conference opponents to pick up wins.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

Retired. But you can probably still follow him on Twitter @AlecGreaney.

January 4, 2015
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