Men's Basketball

Notebook: Perimeter Defense Dooms Eagles Once Again

With four minutes left in the second half, Boston College men’s basketball was looking at an 11-point deficit, having climbed back from 26 down to make Saturday afternoon’s game at least respectable. After Ky Bowman hit the second of two free throws, Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell took the ball down the court and nailed his 10th triple of the day.

The Eagles would score just once more down the stretch, as Farrell paced the Irish to a game-ending 6-2 run that saw BC go out with a whimper. A game filled with defensive breakdowns and poor shooting was enough to doom the Eagles, as they fell to Notre Dame, 84-67, for the second time this season.

Three Up

1) Jerome Robinson

On track to post the highest scoring average in conference games in over 24 years, Robinson continued to find success against ACC foes. He bumped his average up to 25.9 points per game with a 29-point effort on his home court, scoring 18 in the first half alone. With Jordan Chatman struggling to shoot and Bowman missing 11 of his 14 shots, Robinson had to carry the Eagles once again. He needed just 15 attempts to drop nearly 30 points, connecting on 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Yes, Robinson had four fouls and turned it over six times, but his superb offensive performance was the only reason BC lost by 17 and not 40.

2) Nik Popovic

The big man registered his second double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, five on the offensive glass. In an up-and-down season, Popovic was arguably at his best at times against the Irish, working inside and even as far out as the perimeter. Sure, he was outmatched inside on several occasions, but he still outscored his opponent down low in Martinas Geben.

Popovic finished shooting 5-of-9 from the field, and knocked down all four of his free throw attempts. Combining with Robinson, the pair shot 16-for-24 from the floor, good for almost a 67 percent rate from the field. The rest of the team was just 11-for-32 (34 percent).

3) Rallying

The second half opened with a 7-0 Irish run, and Notre Dame pulled ahead by as much as 26. Still, for most Eagles fans in the building, the comeback didn’t necessarily seem unrealistic. After all, BC has proven its mettle in the second half several times this season, rallying from tough deficits to get back in games. It was no different on Saturday. The Eagles went on a 33-17 run to close the gap to nine points, clawing their way back into the pivotal ACC matchup. Notre Dame would distance itself again down the stretch, but BC’s effort was still impressive. For a team that plays its starters big minutes every night, the resolve to make a push in the second half is admirable.

“There was no giving up for our team,” Robinson said afterward. “So we were definitely going to battle back, and we’ve battled back before, so it was the same story.”

Three Down

1) Perimeter Defense

Time and time again, the Eagles have failed to defend the perimeter adequately. BC loses opponents on screens, fails to close out, and lets others heat up without contesting them. It was no different on Saturday, as the Farrell-led Irish shot lights out, piling up 14 shots from beyond the arc, two less than the first time these teams met.

The Eagles let Farrell come up the court and pull up for a 3-pointer several times without getting a hand in his face, allowing the former BC commit pick up steam. Another moment later in the half, Farrell came off a screen and knocked down a 3-pointer without anyone close to him—another defensive mistake from the Eagles. BC now ranks 211th in opponent 3-point percentage, one of the worst marks in the ACC. In conference play, opponents are shooting 38.6 percent against them, second-to-last in the ACC.

2) Turnovers

On the scoreboard, Notre Dame and BC finished even in the turnover category, with 13. Part of this was a product of the Irish turning it over three times down the stretch, but the teams were still about even. The difference? Notre Dame outscored the Eagles in points off turnovers, 18-13, and it seemed like BC kept turning it over at crucial moments.

Robinson had six and Bowman finished with four, the backcourt duo struggling to convert passes. Many times, Bowman would sling a pass ahead to someone on a break, or while in transition, and the ball would sail behind or in front of them and out of bounds. The general sloppiness caught up to Eagles, slowing them down when they were trying to make a run in the second.

3) Role Players

When BC needed a big shot from Jordan Chatman, he couldn’t deliver. The Eagles third scoring option went quiet on Saturday, missing all seven of his 3-point attempts. He finished with an offensive rating of just 60, his lowest since the Clemson loss—his first scoreless outing of the season. Chatman finished with just four points, the third time in the last four games he hasn’t cracked double-digits. With the Eagles so heavily dependent on its three main scorers, Chatman failing to make an impact was especially hurtful. In 34 minutes of play, he was a team-worst -17.

Steffon Mitchell, who was left wide open, also couldn’t make much of an impact. The freshman played 35 minutes, but managed just four points and a lone rebound. He added two steals and two blocks, but it was clear that he was largely kept out of the game. Mitchell has slumped lately, totaling seven points in the last three games combined. In fact, he hasn’t broken the double-digit mark since Jan. 15 against Florida State.

“We have to get some more productivity,” Christian said. “We’ve got to put Steff in better positions. We have to do a better job of putting him in situations where he can help us offensively.”

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

February 18, 2018

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