Top Story, Men's Basketball

Eagles Suffer Setback at the Hands of Farrell, Notre Dame

Eleven days of anticipation, a two-game win streak, and home court advantage didn’t change a thing for Boston College men’s basketball on Saturday afternoon. Just like Notre Dame’s 96-85 win over BC on Feb. 6, the Fighting Irish exposed the Eagles’ increasingly inconsistent defense, shooting 63 percent from the floor, including 14-of-23 from downtown.

In the teams’ first matchup, T.J. Gibbs Jr. jumpstarted Notre Dame’s offense, drilling 5-of-6 from 3-point land and racking up 22 points in the first half alone. This time around, it was Matt Farrell who stole the spotlight. The senior couldn’t miss from beyond the arc: He went 8-of-8 in the opening period, before tying the ACC record for most consecutive 3-pointers to start a game—a mark that Jordan Chatman set last year against Virginia Tech. Single-handedly, Farrell, who logged a career-high 37 points, built a 26-point Irish lead.

BC, a team that has struggled with slow starts all season, staged its typical second-half comeback. The Jerome Robinson-led Eagles closed the gap, at one point cutting their deficit to single digits. But soon after, BC ran out of gas, and the Irish pulled away for an 84-67 victory, their 11th-straight win against the Eagles.

As dominant as Farrell was in the first half, he didn’t even get on the board for the first three and a half minutes of the game. Still, Notre Dame (16-11, 6-8 Atlantic Coast) more than held its own. Knocking down three of their first four shots—all but one of which was from deep—the Irish quickly established a six-point lead. On the next possession, Farrell dialed up a 3-pointer, the first of his 10, one shy of the conference record. BC (16-11, 6-8) head coach Jim Christian called a timeout, but there was no slowing down Farrell—he was already in the zone.

“The [hoop] looked real big tonight,” the senior told reporters following the game. “My first shot felt really good. When that happens, I feel really confident in my shot.”

With a perpetual green light, the trigger-happy guard continued to fire away, often catching the Eagles’ defense off guard. A few minutes after polishing off a self-made 8-0 run, he connected on back-to-back 3-pointers, handing the Irish a 24-7 lead. Shooting just under 40 percent over the course of the first 20 minutes of play, BC was practically helpless on both ends of the floor. Robinson, who scored 18 points in the opening half, was BC’s saving grace, preventing Notre Dame from running away with the victory before intermission.

Ky Bowman and Nik Popovic temporarily revived the sellout Conte Forum crowd with an and-one conversion and a posterizing dunk, respectively, only to see Farrell hush the building with another trey. Midway through the half, the Bridgewater, N.J. native was outscoring the Eagles. He wasn’t stopping anytime soon either.

It took two more Farrell 3-pointers to persuade Christian to make a switch on defense. As he’s wont to do, the fourth-year coach tasked Steffon Mitchell with guarding the opponent’s best player, in this case Farrell. Yet even he, one of the better defenders in the ACC, had no answer for the 6-foot-1 guard. Farrell brought the ball up the court, crossed up Mitchell and drilled a shot from NBA range. Gibbs Jr. put the finishing touches on the half—one in which Notre Dame shot 18-of-27 from the field—with an acrobatic floater.

The Irish picked up right where they left off in the ensuing period, scoring the first seven points of the second frame in large part because of the inside-out play of Gibbs Jr. Later on, Martinas Geben and John Mooney got in on the fun, as Notre Dame extended its lead to 23, but all it took was a pair of successive Robinson and Popovic triples to light a fire under BC. Running up and down the floor, the Eagles turned the six-point swing into a 12-0 run, cutting their deficit to 12. After trading baskets, possession after possession, BC made its move.

With just under six minutes to go, Robinson attacked the paint and laid in an off-balanced shot, bringing BC within nine. The firepower was there—the defense, however, was not. Right on cue, Notre Dame responded with a triple, signaling the beginning of the end. Popovic tacked on a few free throws, Robinson hit a contested 3-pointer, and Christian called for the full-court press.

A little extra pressure couldn’t buy the Eagles a stop, though. Fittingly, Farrell netted the dagger, his 10th and final 3-pointer.

The 23-point defeat marks the first time that BC has dropped a game at home by more than five points this season. Now, the Eagles will have to do their dirty work away from Chestnut Hill. Needing at least two more regular season wins to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, BC will have to steal an ACC game on the road for just the second time in more than two and a half years.

“They know what’s at stake,” Christian said. “I think these guys understand what we’re trying to do, and they understand the road to get there. It’s all about confidence. We’ve gotta get some guys playing with more confidence right now.”

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff

February 17, 2018