Top Story, Men's Basketball

Eagles Blown Out By No. 2 North Carolina

Boston College men’s basketball took on No. 2 North Carolina in a game that began eerily reminiscent of the Eagles’ legendary upset of then-No. 1 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome two seasons ago. The Tar Heels didn’t have it early on, especially from the free throw line, while BC looked efficient, setting the stage for an upset neither side would ever forget. A win like that is the type that could vindicate a season of a lot of losses for BC, if only for a short while, and even if it’s just another game for the other side. It’s what brings a unique hype to college sports.

But not every early close lead gets to turn into a Cinderella moment. And for the Eagles (7-14, 0-8 Atlantic Coast), they’ll have to continue to wait for theirs. A game that started promising for Jim Christian’s squad turned into yet another day at the Dean E. Smith Center in a 89-62 loss to North Carolina (19-2, 8-0).

The game began scoreless for the opening three minutes, as sloppy turnovers, poor passing, and easy missed shots prevented both sides from establishing themselves. The Eagles actually had a good chance of taking multi-possession leads early on, but misplaced passes and silly fouls meant they could never capitalize on their chances. Nevertheless, BC kept it close, outshooting UNC for a good portion of the first half, and held tight, taking the occasional lead, trailing 24-23 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

Then Brice Johnson and his teammates took over. UNC took advantage of the turnovers and shook off their slow start. The Tar Heels thundered forward, going on a 15-0 run at the tail end of the first half to take a solid if not commanding lead. And with that run almost all hope of a BC win faded from the Dean Dome, and the two teams entered the locker room with UNC up 41-30.

The Tar Heel defense then held the Eagles scoreless for almost six minutes into the second half. To add insult to injury, Sammy Barnes-Thompkins went down pursuing a loose ball and came up clutching his hamstring in the opening minutes of the second half. Although he had to be carried off the court, BC fans collectively held their breath, but he did make a return in the closing minutes of the game.

AJ Turner finally opened the scoreboard with 14:16 left on the clock, but by then UNC had built a 51-32 point lead. The Tar Heels had to just focus on closing out the game. By the final whistle, 16 different players had clocked in for the boys in blue as they continued to exploit the same turnovers the Eagles had been committing all game.

The real story of this game were turnovers. BC shot 44 percent, with 10 made from beyond 3-point range, but 23 turnovers will doom even the best teams. Eli Carter, despite a game-high 19 points, committed seven alone. That is certainly a sign of a young team, but at the end of the day that is no excuse this far into the season. The Eagles will need to execute better if they want to win a conference game this year.

One of the few bright spots of the game was Turner. The only starter who managed to escape without a turnover despite playing 34 minutes, he also put up 10 points and seven rebounds. His off-the-ball movement was great and he showed on more than one occasion flashes of brilliance that could make him into a great player. One play in particular was a fast-break play where Turner floated the ball into the net while driving into North Carolina’s Kenny Williams to get the foul. It was a simple play, but one that shows both potential and current ability.

At the end of the day, this is another huge loss on a resume full of huge losses this year for BC basketball. All eight losses on the current streak have been by double digits, and while the scores have been getting closer in recent weeks, those scorelines still count as an L in the game log. The future may be bright, but waiting is still frustrating.

Featured Image by Gerry Broome / AP Photo

January 31, 2016