Men's Basketball

Notebook: Road Woes Continue for Eagles in Louisville

Boston College men’s basketball was plagued by turnovers and a lack of depth in a 77-69 road loss to Louisville on Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals (15-4, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) built a lead as large as 18 in the second half, fighting off a late surge to snap the Eagles’ (13-7, 3-4) two-game winning streak.

Jerome Robinson had a game-high 19 points, but his strong effort wasn’t enough to overcome a tremendous second half from Louisville’s Deng Adel. Adel recorded a double-double in the second half alone, scoring 18 points and securing 10 rebounds, while Jordan Nwora came off the bench for the Cardinals to pour in 15 points of his own. It was more than enough to pull away from a BC offense that shot just 35.4 percent from the field.

Three Up

1) Backcourt Stars

BC’s backcourt tandem of Robinson and Ky Bowman has been fantastic this season, and despite the latter struggling with turnovers on Sunday, they still met their season averages in scoring. Robinson led all scorers with 19 points, despite suffering an apparent hamstring injury midway through the second half. Bowman had 16 even though he fouled out. The dynamic duo are two of the quickest, most efficient scorers in the conference, and they showed that again on Sunday. The two stars for the Eagles didn’t play complete games, though, finding themselves unable to overcome the depth of a very good Louisville squad. Robinson currently ranks third in scoring in the ACC, posting 18.2 points per game, and he, along with Bowman, have carried BC offense throughout the season. Against Louisville, the duo accounted for just over 50 percent of the team’s points, fueling the offense’s production.

2) Steffon Mitchell

There’s no doubt that BC—the 313th-least experienced team in the nation—has a lot of potential, and if some veterans stick around, the Eagles could very well be primed for consistent success in the ACC. Steffon Mitchell, who’s stepped up since the loss of Teddy Hawkins, turned in a well-rounded game. He’s more than earned his place in the starting lineup by showing his tremendous rebounding skills, which were on display Sunday when he pulled down 11 boards. He has also shown that in big situations he can be a defensive stopper—his turn covering Marvin Bagley against Duke being the perfect example. Mitchell finished with the highest plus-minus among the Eagles’ starters in the loss to Louisville (-4).

3) Playing With the Big Boys

So far this year, BC has played very well in most of its matchups against the ACC’s best. The Eagles have lost by single digits to Virginia, Clemson, and now Louisville. A blowout loss to North Carolina is the only exception, while they’ve also knocked off Duke and Florida State. Much of the Louisville game mirrored the road loss to UNC, but BC showed its resilience late, turning a late 18-point deficit into a one-possession game. By beating who they’re supposed to beat and hanging tough with historically established programs, the Eagles have shown promise for this year and beyond. Upcoming games against Syracuse and Notre Dame should also serve as benchmarks for where the Eagles will stand come March.

Three Down

1) Turnovers

More than anything else, turnovers costed the Eagles. With 16 against the Cardinals, BC simply came away with too many empty possessions to emerge victorious. Bowman was the prime culprit, piling up a season-high seven giveaways. His poor ball control resulted in a team-worst -12 plus/minus rating. Time and time again, BC attempted ill-advised cross-court passes. Even when the Eagles forced turnovers of their own, they struggled to capitalize, often failing to cut into their deficit. BC was outscored, 19-16, on points off turnovers. Ball security will be key for the Eagles to turn close losses into victories going forward.

2) Bench Play

The well-documented bench struggles continued for BC, as head coach Jim Christian saw his reserves outscored, 22-2. The two points came when Baker Jr. hit a pair of free throws midway through the second half. Considering the Eagles were playing Louisville—an extremely deep team with scorers up and down the roster—and that Bowman, Mitchell, and Nik Popovic were dealing with foul trouble, BC needed its bench to step up its game. Christian couldn’t even rely on forward Luka Kraljevic in reserve—the freshman piled up four fouls and a turnover in just 12 minutes of action. Vin Baker Jr. pulled in five rebounds, but missed both of the 3-pointers he attempted. Other subs Johncarlos Reyes and Avery Wilson didn’t have an impact, finishing with a combined two fouls and a turnover across eight minutes.

3) Road Woes

With the loss to Louisville, BC is just 1-5 in true road games this season. Winning big matchups in front of opposing fans is a hallmark of any great team, and if the Eagles want to join that company, they will need to perform better away from Conte Forum. BC has been almost unbeatable at home, posting an 11-1 record, but it has fallen apart several times on the road. In the Eagles’ wins, they’ve been able to score early and often, keeping pace with and sometimes surpassing their opponents. On the road, any kind of consistency disappears. Louisville almost gave the game away at the end, with an 18-point lead dwindling to just two late in the game. The comeback effort showcased BC’s potent offense, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the Eagles’ early blunders.

Featured Image by Timothy D. Easley / AP Photo

January 22, 2018

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