Top Story, Men's Basketball

Second Half Collapse Dooms Eagles Against No. 15 Miami

Oh, the difference halftime can make in a game.

The 15-minute break can be the perfect time for a coach to have his guys hit the reset button. Take a few moments for a breather, address the issue, and then get back on the court to fix it.

That’s exactly what Boston College men’s basketball (7-11, 0-5 Atlantic Coast) did in its 67-53 loss to No. 15 Miami (14-3, 3-2) on Wednesday night. The problem for the Eagles was that the Hurricanes did the same thing. And they did it better.

Down by just one point at the half, the Eagles had two glaring flaws on the statsheet: they had drawn just four fouls and hadn’t taken a single free throw in the half, and they had turned the ball over 12 times compared to Miami’s six.

But besides those shortcomings, BC played one of its better halves of the year. A generally undersized team fought and won the rebounding battle 18-16 in the first half, and then the guys didn’t waste time in moving the ball up the court. This allowed BC to penetrate before Miami could set up its half-court defense, a roadblock that the Eagles have had trouble surpassing in recent games.

BC’s youth and inexperience showed here, as the team often tried to do too much, in one stretch turning the ball over five times in three minutes. Yet after a dozen turnovers in the first half, the Eagles played smarter in the second, turning the ball over just three times.

That adjustment alone wasn’t enough. While BC had found a way to make tough-looking transition shots fall in the first half, it began to miss—even air-ball—in the second. After knocking down 52 percent of their shots from the field in the first 20 minutes, the Eagles collapsed to 25.8 percent in the second, hitting just 1-of-10 from 3-point range.

That was Miami’s adjustment.

The Hurricanes, who themselves had shot a poor 40 percent in the first half, had played weak defense as BC got out in transition. So they addressed that at the half.

“In the first half, they outran us,” Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said. “They got some fast-break opportunities … I thought we gave them too many opportunities in the open court.”

As Miami managed to slow down the game, BC fixed its other problem—getting to the line. The Eagles actually managed 14 free throws after taking none in the first half. But these were representative of Miami making every shot BC took much harder. Eli Carter suffered the most from this revamped pressure, going 2-for-13 in the second half, and while BC still hung around for much of the first half, the lack of a go-to option beyond Jerome Robinson—who finished with a game-high 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting—proved too much to handle.

While Robinson turned into the Eagles’ best form of offense in the game, BC actually came out of the gate determined to get its main big man going. Besides finding A. J. Turner wide open on the perimeter to open the scoring, the Eagles pushed four of their first six possessions inside to Dennis Clifford, who has been one of BC’s most reliable scorers this season—when he hasn’t been lodged in foul trouble. Establishing Clifford early is also key for BC to take the pressure off its top guards, who often resort to launching a poor shot as plays break down.

Miami center Tonye Jekiri kept Clifford in check, however, causing BC to pick up three quick turnovers before its own center could handle the ball. The one time they did successfully feed Clifford, he rimmed-out an awkward fadeaway on the side. A second personal foul five minutes in sent Clifford to the bench, and brought in Idy Diallo, who has struggled in most facets of the game this season.

Then suddenly, for a four-minute stretch, Diallo didn’t look like a body solely designed to take up space on the court. He began by knocking down an open jumper at the free-throw line, but followed up on the next possession with a make inside the paint, handling the ball far better than he has for most of the season. He also played far better on the defensive end, leading BC head coach Jim Christian to give him, as well as Turner, a verbal nod in the post-game press conference.

Miami, as most teams have done to Clifford when he has had success, renewed efforts inside that prevented Diallo from becoming a factor in the second half, but it’s still a promising sign for the BC program to see development from its younger contributors. Even though it’s not easy to look past 14 misses in the game for Carter, the guard also tacked on eight assists, proving he has the ability to distribute the ball. He’ll need both the help and a hotter hand for BC to find the win column.

Featured Image by Savanna Kiefer / Heights Editor

January 21, 2016