Top Story, Men's Basketball

Eagles Fall to Pittsburgh, Now Sit at the Bottom of the ACC

For the Pittsburgh Panthers, Wednesday’s game against Boston College men’s basketball started out about as bad as it could.

Jamel Artis, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading scorer, drove to the basket on the first play of the game but came up limping after losing control of the ball. He hopped on one foot all the way up the stairs on the temporary bleachers behind the basket, down the ramp in the back, and parked along what usually are the hockey boards.

At first, it looked to be a serious injury, as Artis stayed down for an extended period of time and labored back to the bench. Thankfully, he wasn’t seriously hurt and returned to the game later in the half.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, it only got better for Pittsburgh from there.

The Panthers rode a 23-8 run spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second to rally for the easy victory against the Eagles by a score of 83-72. The loss bumps BC (9-16, 2-10 Atlantic Coast) into last place in the conference, while Pittsburgh took over 14th place, right in front of the Eagles.

Senior center Michael Young was unstoppable for the Panthers (13-11, 2-9), leading all players with 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting. He presented matchup problems for BC’s big men, each of whom were too slow or too small to keep up with Young.

Generally, the best way to prevent Pittsburgh from winning is to limit their scoring (which sounds obvious). Whereas the Panthers have given up roughly the same amount of points in their wins (76.6) as their losses (77.8), Pitt has averaged 21 more points per game in its victories.

Though the Eagles played a strong first half defensively, BC couldn’t limit Pitt’s scoring in the second stanza as the Panthers exploded for 52 second-half points. The Panthers got to the free throw line 29 times compared to BC’s 14 free throw attempts.

“In the beginning of the second half, we gave up two easy baskets and never really found the toughness we needed,” BC head coach Jim Christian said after the loss.

In what represented BC’s last really good chance at a third ACC win (though BC was still a 2.5-point underdog entering the contest) the Eagles finished the game with a lackluster defensive performance against an offense that had struggled mightily in conference play.

Christian took responsibility for his team’s woes on its eight-game losing streak, but also emphasized that the players have a responsibility to pick each other up.

“There wasn’t enough motion, there wasn’t enough passion to play,” Christian said. “It’s my team, so it’s on me, but in reality it’s on them. Coaches don’t do all that—players do that.”

If there were any positives to take away for the Eagles, one was their responsibility with the ball on offense. Pittsburgh one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers on defense, and the same was true on Wednesday night. BC only surrendered nine turnovers on the game, its lowest total since the Eagles’ loss to Wake Forest on Jan. 3.

Additionally, the Eagles got a season-high 14 points from center Mo Jeffers. The graduate transfer turned in what was probably his game of the season against the Panthers, as he connected on seven of nine of his shots from the floor. His touch around the rim was smooth, and his shot outside the paint seemed to be working for the first time all season.

Though Jeffers played a strong game, few other Eagles could say the same. Ky Bowman shot well and scored 15 points, but his impact was limited because of foul trouble. Jerome Robinson struggled to get going in the first half, and by the time his shots started falling in the second, it was too little, too late.

A.J. Turner has been mired in a multi-game slump, and he found himself bumped from the starting lineup against Pittsburgh. With Jordan Chatman taking his place, Turner struggled even in the limited action he saw against the Panthers. In 20 minutes, Turner took four shots and missed each of them, grabbing one rebound and assisting on two baskets.

“There’s no easy answer for [why players go through slumps],” Christian said. “It happens. We just have to keep believing in him and keep working with him.”

It might be tough for the Eagles to break out of their own slump, with road games against Clemson and Georgia Tech as their only contests against teams from the bottom half of the ACC. Unless BC can tighten up its defense and prevent opposing teams from getting to the line so frequently, its eight-game losing streak might end up being a lot longer. 

Featured Image by Kyle Bowman / Heights Staff

February 8, 2017

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