Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Notebook: Mitchell Stuffs Stat Sheet, Youth Impress vs. USF

Boston College men’s basketball dug itself a nine-point deficit in the first half of its Sunday afternoon game at South Florida, but surged to take the lead before the break—and it proved to be one it held for good. The Eagles went on to win, 74-60, and hand the Bulls their first loss of the year behind 22 points from Derryck Thornton. Here are 10 takeaways from BC’s 14-point victory over USF.

1) Resilience: With seven minutes left in the first half, Bulls forward Michael Durr stretched his team’s lead to nine with a free throw. The Eagles had just a 12.9 percent win probability at the point, per KenPom, but that didn’t phase them. The visitors tightened up offensively and impressed offensively, closing the half on a 26-6 run and even scoring 11 straight points before the break. 

2) Hustle: In typical Steffon Mitchell fashion, the junior stuffed the stat sheet and had USF head coach Brian Gregory gushing about him in his postgame press conference. “Mitchell [is] 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, and [he] dominated the game taking four shots,” he said, per USF Athletics. Mitchell finished with six points, 13 rebounds—five on the offensive glass—six assists, four blocks, two steals, and just one turnover.

3) Freshman: With Jairus Hamilton out with injury, Jared Hamilton slotted into the starting lineup and head coach Jim Christian went with a two-man bench of freshman CJ Felder and Julian Rishwain. Both impressed, with Felder totaling 10 points and four rebounds, while Rishwain had 11 points, three rebounds, and a steal. Rishawin has seamlessly fit into the offense, while Felder provides a strong presence on the glass.

4) Turnovers: It was an ugly, ugly game for the Eagles in the turnover department. BC racked up 28 turnovers and it was a big factor in its early nine-point hole. Freshman point guard Jay Heath displayed his youth, totaling nine turnovers, which was particularly concerning considering the team was fresh off committing just seven in its season-opening win over Wake Forest.

5) Go-To Guy: Point guard Derryck Thornton entered this season with 93 career collegiate games under his belt after stints at both Duke and Southern California. In those 93 games, Thornton never cracked 20 points, setting a career-high of 19 in just his fourth game with the Blue Devils. Through two games with BC, though, he’s scored 23 and 22 points, respectively. It begs the question of whether it’s sustainable, but if anything, Christian has proved he has a knack for getting the most out of his guards offensively.

6) Inside-Out: Thornton has found this offensive success through a very balanced profile. He’s taken 29 shots through two games, and 12 have come at the rim, nine from midrange, and eight from beyond the arc. He’s very much a three-level scorer right now, and that was on display against the Bulls—his first six points came in the paint, then after a spell on the bench, returned to hit a 3-pointer. 

7) Identity: Last year, one of the recurring problems with the Eagles was their inability to get defensive stops. BC ranked 195th in defensive efficiency and 295th in forcing turnovers, but it has shown a much-improved group in two games so far. Granted, the Demon Deacons and Bulls aren’t known for protecting the ball particularly well (they both ranked outside the top 200 in turnover percentage a season ago), but the Eagles have forced 17 and 20 turnovers, respectively.

8) Distribution: Outside of Thornton taking a team-high 15 shots on Sunday, all six of the other players to receive meaningful minutes took at least four shots and scored at least four points. That balance of scoring, whether it was Felder and Rishwain combining for 21 bench points or Nik Popovic hitting his usual 15 points, was more than enough to overwhelm the hosts.

9) Inconsistent: Almost everybody who took a trip to the free throw line missed at least one shot on Sunday, and the Eagles finished 16-of-24 (66.7 percent) as a team. Felder went 3-for-3, but Heath, Popovic, and Rishwain all missed two apiece. BC is currently converting from the charity stripe at a 64.7 percent clip through two games—five points below last year’s mark—and it’s something to keep an eye on when the margin of victory starts to narrow.

10) Path Ahead: Per KenPom, the Eagles will be the favorite in each of their next five games. They square off against High Point, Belmont, Eastern Washington, DePaul, and Saint Louis, with every game being played in the confines of Conte Forum. While it’s hard to start 7-0, the fact that BC has played as well as it has in its first two games reflects growing confidence in an exciting group to watch.

Featured Image by Kait Devir / For The Heights

November 12, 2019

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