Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Notebook: BC Struggles to Shoot, Box Out in UNC Loss

Boston College men’s basketball was unable to pull off an upset against a formidable No. 3 North Carolina team, and didn’t come particularly close in a 79-66 defeat. In what would’ve taken a miraculous display of effort, the Eagles (14-15, 5-12 Atlantic Coast) played from behind for 33 minutes, proving unable to keep up with the star power that Tar Heels (25-5, 15-2 Atlantic Coast) head coach Roy Williams put out on the floor for UNC. The Tar Heels finished undefeated on the road in conference play with the victory, becoming the first team in program history to go 9-0 on the road in ACC competition. The Eagles continue their limp to the finish line of this disappointing season, and they will look ahead to another tough matchup against conference foe North Carolina State on Saturday. Here are six takeaways from Tuesday’s game:

1) Bowman energizes the offense from start to finish

From the jump, it was clear that Ky Bowman had been eagerly awaiting this matchup. After all, the Havelock, N.C. native has excelled against teams from his home state throughout his college career. He had averaged 27 points in two matchups with the Tar Heels prior to this game, and nearly hit that mark in the loss. Bowman started off the contest with nine quick points in the first three minutes, all on 3-pointers. He seemed to be in rhythm on almost every shot, connecting on several pull-up and catch-and-shoot triples. Bowman finished with 23 points on the night, shooting 7-of-16 from beyond the arc. He also pulled down nine rebounds, all on the defensive glass, and had four assists and two steals in a full-game effort.

2) Tar Heels’ talent overwhelming for Eagles on both ends

The talent gap between BC and UNC was magnified during this game. The Eagles were able to successfully trade blows with the Tar Heels for the first few minutes of the game, but that level of play was not sustainable for all 40 minutes. A 20-3 Carolina run over the final eight-plus minutes of the first half pretty much buried BC for good, giving the Heels a 23-point halftime lead. In particular, the Tar Heels’ leading scorer Cameron Johnson was unstoppable. Johnson finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists, shooting an efficient 9-of-18 from the field. Additionally, the Tar Heels’ defense was able to suffocate BC for most of the game, forcing the Eagles into the final seconds of the shot clock on several possessions. It was clear that Jim Christian’s side, especially during the latter half of the opening frame, simply didn’t have the answers for a well-balanced UNC team.

3) Poor shooting night buries BC

When you aren’t making shots, it’s going to be hard to contend with a team like UNC—a team that is sixth in the country in offensive efficiency, plays at the fourth-fastest rate, and is prolific on the offensive glass. So, it was no surprise that BC dug itself a massive hole in this game by missing open looks. After a strong start, the Eagles converted on just three of their last 26 field goal attempts to end the half. BC shot an astonishing 24 percent from the field in the first half, additionally missing the only two free throws it attempted. A few more shots started to fall in the second period (45.5 percent), but it was too little, too late, as even a 10-0 run to close the game only closed the deficit to 13. There were many factors that contributed to the Eagles’ defeat, but their abysmal shooting night may have been the deciding factor.

4) No help for Bowman and Popovic on offense

Outside of Bowman and Nik Popovic, BC received very little offensive contribution from the rest of the team. Popovic, who totaled 20 points, was effective working inside, but he was alone on that front. UNC’s defense successfully kept Bowman out of the driving lanes, so he turned his attention to the 3-point shot and making plays for his teammates. However, these two were the only Eagles playing with any real energy for the duration of the game. Jordan Chatman, BC’s third-highest scorer, struggled to make shots, finishing 3-of-18 from the field. He got off to a woeful start, hitting just one of his first 10 shots. Without Jairus Hamilton, BC’s depth was exposed, and the bench managed just eight points—all coming from Chris Herren Jr. Once again, a lack of scorers hurt the Eagles’ chances.

5) Immense struggles for BC inside

The Tar Heels’ inside presence on defense was stunning. UNC outscored BC, 44-18, in the paint—a monumental edge for head coach Roy Williams and Co. Besides the efforts of Popovic, it was nearly impossible for BC to generate anything near the hoop. The Eagles continued to kick the ball out to shooters and settle for shots around the perimeter, which clanged off rims and into the hands of UNC players—BC was held to just seven rebounds on the offensive glass and eight second-chance points. The Tar Heels’ defensive efforts deterred BC from attacking the basket at all during this game.

6) UNC dominated on the boards

Coming into this matchup, BC knew the rebounding battle would be a concern. In last year’s meeting, a game in which the Tar Heels won by 30, UNC had a decisive 58-23 edge on the glass and cruised to victory. This year’s team—and meeting—wasn’t much different, as UNC leads the ACC in rebounding, while BC is 213th in the country in that department. The Tar Heels outrebounded BC, 60-35, in this game, including a dominant 20-7 mark on the offensive boards. Luke Maye absolutely bullied the Eagles down low, accumulating a double-double at halftime and grabbing 20 rebounds for the game. Offensive rebounds and second-chance points are one of the Tar Heels’ greatest strengths, and they exploited BC in that area on Tuesday night.

Featured Image by Michael Dwyer / AP Photo

March 6, 2019

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