Men's Basketball

Signs of Positivity with Small Ball Lineup in Loss to Notre Dame

Some of history’s greatest thinkers stumbled upon their brightest ideas by complete accident: Newton saw an apple fall and thought, “Gravity!” The first man to trip on acid accidentally ingested samples of LSD in his laboratory. Then, on Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind., Boston College men’s basketball head coach Jim Christian discovered the viability of small lineups with Garland Owens at the five.

Though the Eagles (7-12, 0-6 Atlantic Coast) ultimately dropped the game 76-49 to the Demetrius Jackson-less University of Notre Dame (14-5, 5-2), the smaller unit Christian trotted out for the final eight minutes of the first half defibrillated BC’s offensive attack and cauterized the bleeding on the other end.

For the second game in a row, senior center Dennis Clifford had to be yanked after committing two quick fouls. Enter redshirt freshman Idy Diallo—and exit redshirt freshman Idy Diallo. The backup big man picked up a trio of penalties in just four minutes of play.

BC emerged from the under-eight media timeout with a lineup featuring A.J. Turner, Eli Carter, Darryl Hicks, Jerome Robinson, and Owens. That means they played no one taller than 6-foot-7 and four players 6-foot-5 or shorter.

It worked.

The Eagles spaced the floor, canned a handful of 3-pointers, switched like the Golden State Warriors on defense, fought admirably under the boards, and outscored the Irish by three to cut the deficit to five points entering halftime.

Despite that success, Christian re-inserted, separately, Clifford and Diallo into the game in the second half, and the Irish ripped off an 18-4 run to effectively euthanize BC’s chances of winning.

Christian’s squad was impotent on offense, especially in the halfcourt, nothing new since the start of ACC play. As a team, BC shot 29 percent from the field. That’s an unconscionably low number.

Aside from a mini-explosion in the middle of the first half from Carter, there was virtually no offensive silver lining.

In fact, Carter was the only Eagle to reach double digits, tossing up 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting. He scored nine of those 16 via highly contested 3-pointers, shots he’ll make only 15, maybe 20 percent of the time.

Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson punked the Eagles down low once again, his third straight game against BC in double digits, and Irish guard Steve Vasturia, who looks as much an entry-level accountant from Iowa as a high-major Division 1 college basketball player, consistently blew past BC’s guards and drew fouls on interior defenders.

The Eagles’ on-ball defense was so shaky that Christian, hands in the air in exasperation, reverted to an assortment of zone schemes, including an extended 1-3-1 and a 2-3, the latter of which we haven’t seen too much this season. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

But no matter what defense Christian called for, it didn’t help. Notre Dame took 27 shots from the charity stripe and drained 25 of them. The Irish only turned the ball over eight times, and their low assist total of 11 belies the amount of passes that led directly to free throws.

The Eagles haven’t just lost every game in the ACC this season––they’ve been obliterated. The final eight minutes of the first half proved the lone bright spot of an otherwise bleak road trip.

Maybe it’s time to play around more boldly with lineups and miniaturize. What have they got to lose?

Featured Image by Robert Jackson / AP Photo

January 23, 2016