Men's Basketball

Three Up, Three Down: How BC Basketball Fared In Its Opener

“I know what our team is capable of doing,”Jim Christian said. “It’s just that nobody else does.”

In BC’s 75-49 victory over St. Francis Brooklyn, the Eagles’ extensive freshman class served notice that it was ready for the challenge of filling the gaps on a team that lost 84 percent of its scoring and 79 percent of its minutes from last year. The six freshmen playing meaningful minutes scored 45 points. While their output may have impressed the fans in attendance, it certainly didn’t shock their coach.

Year Two of Christian’s tenure began with an unexpectedly coherent game on both sides of the floor, mixing largely positive strides with a few issues that will be of concern for the foreseeable future.

Three Up

1. Team Defense – For a young team, an immediate area of concern is team defense. Coaches worry if young players will remember the scheme, knowing where to help and when to scamper back to their man. Christian echoed this sentiment. “You don’t know what they’re going to retain,” he said. For the moment, it appears that BC’s freshmen retained everything they learned in the film room.

Offensively, St. Francis attempted to generate almost all of its offense from pick-and-roll plays. The team tried to induce help defense breakdowns that would lead to open threes, something that often happens with inexperienced groups.
BC’s freshmen bucked this trend, defending excellently as a unit. Christian attempted to corral the opposing ball handler by having his big men hedge hard, sliding sideways with the ball. This strategy leaves the roll man open for a second, requiring a third defender to momentarily help off of his man.

Once the ball handler gives up the ball, and has nowhere to dribble, this third man must race back to his original assignment, lest he concede an open three.

BC’s help defense was outstanding throughout the game, particularly in the first half, where St. Francis was held scoreless for the first eight minutes and 28 seconds. Ball handlers had no room to make a play and subsequent ball movement produced few open shots, as BC’s help defenders were diligent in recovering. A.J. Turner was particularly impressive within this scheme, preventing several threes with hard closeouts.

2. Eli Carter, Scorer – Carter finished 10-for-19 from the field, totaling 23 points. His full offensive arsenal was on display, as he alternated drives to the basket with step-back threes.

Carter had success on isolation plays, such as the one above, serving as the safety valve for BC’s offense late in the shot clock. He effectively created space from his defender on drives to the basket, using his off arm as a shield, while displaying a soft touch around the rim, even on heavily contested drives.

Perhaps the most impressive part of his game was how well he managed to score within the flow of the offense. Carter didn’t unnecessarily stall possessions to attack his defender one-on-one, preferring to attack immediately.
One play BC had success with was running Carter off a screen into the middle of the floor. Carter would catch the ball around the free throw line, where he could stop for a quick jumper or drive for a layup. During the course of the game, he utilized both of these options.

3. Jerome Robinson – For an unheralded recruit, Robinson is rapidly making a name for himself. Finishing with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals, in addition to his highlight reel dunk, he was easily the most impressive of BC’s freshmen. Christian praised him after the game. “He picks things up very quickly,” Christian said.

Robinson’s basketball intellect stood out during the game, as the freshman played point guard for the majority of his minutes. He effectively got teammates involved, making very good reads out of pick-and-roll scenarios, displaying a nice bounce pass to the rolling big man. With only two turnovers, Robinson was also highly efficient in his first game.
As a scorer, Robinson displayed a natural ability to get to the rim, often utilizing a spin move. He showed an ability to shoot both off the dribble and off the catch.

Finally, Robinson impressed on defense, forcing turnovers and allowing the Eagles to get out in transition. He was a key factor in BC scoring 16 points off turnovers in the first half.

Three Down

1. Protecting the Boards – BC surrendered 15 offensive rebounds to St. Francis, an alarming trend, considering that the team conceded 14 to Bentley last week. Last season, St. Francis ranked seventh in the NCAA, hauling in 39.6 percent of available offensive rebounds. On Saturday, the team was back to its old tricks.

Although their 44 missed field goals and 10 missed free throws offered ample opportunities for them to hit the boards, the results aren’t any less concerning. While Dennis Clifford rebounded well, the youth of the team showed in their failure to protect the boards, as St. Francis’ guards repeatedly got hands on rebounds, with little resistance from the BC perimeter players. If BC doesn’t make a concerted group effort to clean the glass, opponents with greater offensive potency will punish the Eagles with a barrage of uncontested put-backs and open threes.

2. Eli Carter, Passer – Carter took a shot, went to the line, or committed a turnover on 43 percent of BC’s plays while he was on the floor, an astronomical number that ranks third among single game performances on the young season. Despite this, he recorded zero assists to his four turnovers. Carter moved the ball well in the flow of the offense, but when he went to create a shot for teammates, the passes weren’t on point. Carter also lost control of the ball a few times while dribbling, not displaying the prototypical point guard handle.

While this wasn’t too much of an issue on Saturday, with Robinson’s breakout performance, Carter will have to play a fair amount of point guard against stronger opponents. If his passing and ball control don’t improve, the Eagles’ offense may stall out frequently.

3. Dennis Clifford – Clifford’s final stat line belies the struggles he faced in the game. Despite finishing with seven points and 11 rebounds, including seven free throw attempts, his play left much to be desired. Even Christian, one of Clifford’s biggest supporters, admitted as much. “Dennis has to get back in a better rhythm,” he said.

Clifford shot just 1-for-6 from the field, with most of his shots coming around the rim. He needs to go up a bit quicker with the ball, to avoid being surrounded by a crowd of defenders, which greatly increased the difficulty of his shots. He also needs to hold the ball a bit higher, as St. Francis defenders managed to force a jump ball twice against Clifford, with BC’s center holding the ball down around his waist.

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

November 16, 2015