Top Story, Men's Basketball

No Fight Left: Eagles’ Soft Interior Defense Crushed By Irish Offense

“They put you in so many tough rotations and they shot the ball really well. You almost have to pick your poison.”

-Jim Christian

The man watched his shot glance off the rim. Luckily, it popped back in his direction, and he snatched the rebound. With no one nearby, he took a step back and attempted another 3-pointer. Good! The crowd erupted, sending reverberations through and around all corners of Conte Forum.

This man jogged back off the court, accepting high-fives. Meanwhile, the two teams broke from the huddle of the time out and returned to the court, signaling it was time for fans to resume their dull murmuring for the actual game.

For the first time this season, more than 8,300 people showed up to Conte on Saturday afternoon to watch basketball. To find the last basketball game that attracted such a showing, you’d have to go back to Feb. 8, 2014, when No. 11 Duke traveled to Chestnut Hill. In that game, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Jabari Parker, dominated the Eagles in the second half, handing Boston College a 21-point loss.

In that game, however, BC fans had reason to cheer. Although the Eagles never led, they did go on a 12-5 run in the first half to tie it up, providing BC fans with the all-too-familiar false sense of hope. In Saturday’s matchup with No. 10 Notre Dame (24-4, 12-3 ACC), the Eagles (9-17, 1-13 ACC) gave their biggest crowd of the year few reasons to cheer beyond the promotions, falling 87-70.

Notre Dame has excelled on offense all season and maintained its efficiency against BC, shooting an impressive 58.6 percent from the field in the first half. Both Olivier Hanlan and Aaron Brown put up double figures in the first, keeping the game close and taking just a five-point deficit into the break.

In the second, there was nothing BC could do. The Irish made 10 of their first 11 shots en route to a 75 percent shooting performance. The Eagles managed to shoot above 50 percent in that half, but the 19 seconds they led for in the opening minutes would be the only ones.

Last time these two teams met, just two and a half weeks ago, the trio of Zach Auguste, Jerian Grant, and Steve Vasuria dominated, combining for 50 of Notre Dame’s 71 points. This time around, the production was even more balanced. Six players finished in double-digits for the Irish, and Pat Connaughton also added on eight points. Grant, though not the leading scorer, did a terrific job running the offense, picking up 11 assists to complement his 10 points.

“I was unbelievably impressed with how Grant played the game,” BC head coach Jim Christian said. “We went zone, he got the ball in the middle of the floor and carved us in there. He carved us up off of the ball screen. He’s a terrific player.”

The Eagles came out strong on the offensive side, as well, spurred on by solid performances from Brown and Dennis Clifford. Brown led the team in shots and points, categories normally led by Hanlan. After putting up such high scoring totals in the last several games, Hanlan has garnered special attention from opponents’ defenses.

“I thought we did a good job with Hanlan not getting his 30 [points],” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “When he gets his 30 then the games are interesting—and BC is in them.”

Hanlan still picked up 19 while draining 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, but he didn’t take over the game as he has done recently.

Clifford, meanwhile, put up one of his best performances of the season. The big man went 7-for-10 with 17 points, knocking down a couple jump shots along the way. He has often seemed shaky in the paint this season, but he appeared confident on Saturday, taking advantage of a couple mismatches and going up strong.

In the end, it was BC’s defense that couldn’t get it done. Notre Dame had its way inside, putting up 48 points in the paint compared to BC’s 28. Backup center Will Magarity missed another game as he continues to recover from a concussion he sustained earlier this season, and even BC’s talented guards had trouble staying in front of Notre Dame. Superior shooting skill and athleticism decided the game early on, and BC will have to keep fishing for a second ACC win.

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

February 21, 2015
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