Men's Basketball

Notebook: Lackluster Defensive Performances Costs BC in Blowout Loss

Once again not at full strength, Boston College men’s basketball had a forgetful second half, en route to a 83-56 blowout loss to unbeaten No. 4 Virginia. The Eagles (9-5, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) are now winless in their first two conference games and are on a three-game losing streak, with no signs of a turnaround any time soon. If the dominant interior play by the Cavaliers (14-0, 2-0) is any indication for what this team will have to endure—the multiple injuries the team has suffered early in the season aside—it is likely that Jim Christian’s group could be in for a tough go in ACC play.

Coming into this game, BC knew the opponent would be its most difficult to date this season, yet the first half didn’t seem all that lopsided—even though the Eagles entered the break trailing by 12 points. Putting up 31 in the first half against the nation’s best defense, in terms of points allowed (51 points per game), was something that had the team and Christian in decent spirits going into the half. This was one of the only promising parts of this game for the Eagles, though. Here are eight takeaways from the shaky setback against the Cavaliers.

1) Interior: Coming into this game, activity on the boards was no doubt going to be the main struggle of the Eagles’ defense. With leading rebounder Steffon Mitchell out (day-to-day with a quad injury), BC was at a clear disadvantage. The Cavaliers didn’t miss a chance to exploit a weakness, with Mamadi Diakite one of the biggest benefactors. Before playing the Eagles, Diakite’s season high was just 10 points, but with four offensive rebounds and several second-chance buckets, the 6-foot-9 forward was able to score 18 points. Braxton Key, an inch shorter, also made the most of his time off the UVA bench—he piled up nine rebounds and chipped in nine points.

2) Zone: When Christian’s man-to-man defense was not working, he decided to change things up by going into a 2-3 zone that seemed to hinder the Cavaliers for a decent stretch. For a large portion of the game, this allowed for BC to have more bodies in the interior to secure second-chance boards and limit UVA to mostly 3-point shots. This would end up being the downfall of the Eagles, though, as guards like Kyle Guy and DeAndre Hunter were able to knock down uncontested 3-pointers and open jumpers.

3) Closeout: One major problem that the Eagles struggle with on defense is the ability to closeout on the 3-point attempts. They often fail to get hands in the face of a player, and sometimes when they do close the gap, they commit costly fouls (see the loss to Hartford in overtime last week). It could be that teams just have great ball movement and are finding the weaknesses within the BC defense, but more often than not it’s missed assignments and a lack of communication. The Cavaliers took advantage early, going 5-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, and this in turn set up the dominant post play.

4) Collapsing: Another consistent defensive lapse for the Eagles occurred frequently in the second half. Too often, BC players stayed locked in defensively on their man and failed to collapse or help in the lane. This resulted in too many times to count where a UVA guard was able to blow by an Eagles defender at the top of the key and finesse their way into the paint without a mere body to contest an easy layup. The Cavaliers had 22 points in the paint in the second half, and several of them came off easy finishes.

5) Contested: The UVA defense is more than willing to let its opponents live and die by the 3-pointer—it just so happened that the Eagles were limited to the latter. An open triple is fine for the likes of Ky Bowman, whose 12 of 15 points came from beyond the arc. Players struggling from deep, however—such as Jordan Chatman who was a measly 1-of-6 from beyond the arc—brought down the pace and scoring of the BC offense in the second half.

6) Run: What ultimately did the Eagles in was a painful 18-3 run late in the second half by the Cavaliers. Everything was going UVA’s way, whether it was BC committing fouls or turning the ball over—the Eagles at one point had two successive turnovers from Bowman and Nik Popovic, respectively. Frequently, BC struggles with teams that get hot and go on a prolonged run, and most of that stems from a defense that is unable to step up and remain focused.

7) Assertive: Although Tabbs is usually the freshman star, Jairus Hamilton showed great flashes of quality play in the loss. While only posting four total points in the game, he did add a quiet six boards and had some plays that really demonstrated his ability to feel more comfortable on the court. Hamilton struggled often at the outset of the season, but he’s gradually grown in confidence and is starting to play a more meaningful role. After failing to crack 30 minutes in any of his first nine games on campus, Hamilton has surpassed that mark in four of the last five. He’s one of the more exciting players to watch out for on this young team, due to the sheer athletic ability he possesses.

8) Fresh: With Popovic taking the majority of big-man minutes due to Mitchell being out, there were several fresh faces to the Eagles team that saw some playing time. Luka Kraljevic got six minutes of playing time and even registered a basket. Nothing truly special came out of his minutes, except for some rather forced jumpshots—he went 1-of-4 from the field, which included missing his only 3-point attempt. Still, minutes are important to the sophomore, who drastically needs some on-court experience for the two years to come, in which he will have a chance to be featured as a potential rotation player.

Featured Image by Mary Schwalm / AP Photo

January 11, 2019