Men's Basketball, Basketball, Sports

Notebook: BC Falters Against Georgia Tech, Drops Fourth Overtime Game

In Boston College men’s basketball’s final road game of the season at Georgia Tech, it searched for just its third road victory of the season. The Eagles fought hard in trying to secure back-to-back conference wins, coming back from an eight-point deficit in the second half to send the game to overtime. Another spirited effort fell short, though, as BC slipped up against GT, 81-78. Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe led the way for the Yellow Jackets (13-17, 5-12 Atlantic Coast), combining for 41 points in the win. With the loss, BC (14-14, 5-11) has now won one or fewer road games in the ACC in four straight years. The following are 10 takeaways from the disappointing loss.

1) Overtime Bug

Including Sunday’s loss, BC has played in four overtime contests this season. The Eagles came up painfully short in each of them. Ky Bowman was held scoreless in the extra frame on Sunday, which was a contributory factor in the loss. GT keyed in on the outstanding junior in crunch time and forced the ball into the hands of others down the stretch. A season ago, BC was 2-1 in overtime games, and the ability to rely on both Bowman and Jerome Robinson to create their own shots may have been a factor in the difference in records between seasons.

2) Popovic in the Post

For large stretches of the game on Sunday, Nik Popovic was the only one keeping BC in the game. The junior led all scorers with 24 points and created many of his chances through graceful post moves. Popovic has greatly improved this season in his finishing ability, as he is the only Eagles’ starter to be sporting a field goal percentage better than 50 percent. He has also been increasingly consistent, tallying at least 10 points in all but two games in that he’s suited up for this season. On Sunday, the Bosnia and Herzegovina native provided not just timely buckets, but nine big rebounds for a BC team that was struggling from the perimeter.

3) Inconsistent Defense

In BC’s last three wins, Eagles opponents have averaged just a 33-percent shooting clip. The Yellow Jackets entered Sunday having lost nine of its last 10 games, a stretch where their offense surpassed the 60-point threshold just three times. However, the Yellow Jackets found their way against the Eagles defense on Sunday, scoring their 81 points on 51-percent shooting. GT set solid screens to get into the paint for more than half of its points. The drive and kick game was a weapon as well. BC struggled to close out on shooters, and Alvarado and Devoe combined for seven triples, including a crucial shot from Devoe in the waning minutes of overtime.

4) Ball Control

The Eagles were averaging 12.6 turnovers per game entering Sunday, and their turnover margin ranked third-to-last in the ACC. BC did a good job controlling the ball, committing just eight turnovers. This was especially impressive considering that 20 of its 32 field goals were assisted on, and Bowman turned it over just one time—even more remarkable considering in last year’s first round ACC Tournament game against GT, he racked up eight turnovers. However, BC failed to force a Yellow Jackets team that was coughing the ball up nearly 15 times per game to do so. GT only gave up the ball nine times, which led to more field goal attempts that the Yellow Jackets converted into points.

5) Mental Mistake

With 24 seconds left on the clock in overtime, 11 seconds on the shot clock, and down by three points, it appeared as if a stop would allow the Eagles to get the ball back with a chance to tie the game. Instead, Jared Hamilton ran up to Alvarado and intentionally fouled him. It seemed as if he may have been swayed to foul by one of his teammates, but head coach Jim Christian stood staring at him in disbelief. Alvarado stepped to the line and was able to extend the lead to two possessions. Mental errors like these have plagued the Eagles late in games this season, and these lapses in concentration have been contributing factors in a number of close losses.

6) Second-Half Surge

Facing a multitude of second-half deficits this season, the Eagles have never given up. They possess the intensity to fight back in games, and the case was no different on Sunday. Trailing by eight in the second half, BC rode its defense and transition offense to an 11-1 run to reclaim the lead. Full-court pressure forced the Yellow Jackets into a few possessions of poor shot selection, and BC was able to capitalize. The problem for the Eagles was that they were not able to extend this lead to more than one possession. GT hung around, regained the lead, and finally pulled away in overtime.

7) Charity Challenges

Despite much of the game taking place in the paint, both teams did a good job abstaining from fouling, especially in the second half. Neither team was in the bonus until there were less than three minutes left in regulation. Throughout most of the game, BC was efficient at the charity stripe, missing just a single free throw in the first 38 minutes of game action. However, in the final two minutes and overtime, Jared Hamilton, Johncarlos Reyes, and Steffon Mitchell each missed pivotal frere throws, including the front-end of a 1-and-1 that could have tied the game in the extra frame. The Eagles’ inability to knock down points at the line during crunch time is another reason why they have dropped so many close contests this season, especially on the road.

8) The Mitchell Factor

Much like a good portion of the Eagles’ roster, Steffon Mitchell has battled injuries this season. He missed time earlier this year with a quad injury and has since had to fight through a nagging shoulder issue. He sported a fairly hefty shoulder brace on the court on Sunday, but the sophomore still brought the one-of-a-kind intensity to the game that he always does. He ripped down 10 rebounds, scored eight points, and dished seven assists. Much like the role Draymond Green plays for the Warriors, Mitchell is a swiss-army knife player that always plays with fire.

9) Paint Performance

The Eagles repeatedly could not find their perimeter stroke on Sunday, but their performance inside was encouraging. BC scored 48 points in the paint, and this can be attributed to strong interior passing to pick apart an intense GT zone. Head coach Josh Pastner mixed a 2-3 zone with an occasional 1-3-1 look, but unselfish play led the Eagles to shoot 59 percent on two-point field goals. Bowman and Chatman were effective at driving and elevating over the defense for easy jump shots, but a 3-for-17 evening from beyond the arc prevented BC from pulling away.

10) So Close, Yet So Far

All but three of BC’s 28 games this season have been decided by 12 points or fewer. The exceptions came on an opening night victory against Milwaukee, and pair of blowout losses to highly-ranked Virginia and Duke. Every other game, including Sunday, consisted of a contest that could be considered “winnable.” What has separated BC from being a .500 team as opposed to a team fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth has been its level of play in tight games. Poor shot selection and lackluster defense in overtime was the latest edition of BC’s late-game struggles, but being in so many close games is something that the younger players on the roster can certainly learn from moving forward.

Featured Image by Curtis Compton / AP Photo

March 4, 2019