Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Notebook: Defense Leads the Way Against High Point

There were moments in last week’s non-conference matchup against South Florida where it looked like Boston College men’s basketball couldn’t hold on anymore, whether it was letting the Bulls briefly pull within range of their deficit or preserving an undefeated start to the season. BC pulled through, though, and while the first half against High Point on Wednesday was similar in the sense that the Eagles let their opponent hang around, the Eagles promptly locked down on defense and rolled to a 59-33 win. Here are five takeaways after BC pulled away from the Panthers on the strength of its defense. 

1) Lockdown Defense

Throughout the course of the game, BC appeared patient and calm on defense. Although they maintained an intense push on their own side of the court, the Eagles always seemed to assess the situation before going in for a steal or even an intentional foul. This patient defense paid off for BC, as it recorded 16 steals to just 13 fouls, in addition to limiting the Panthers to just 25.8 percent shooting. 

The contrast between the pace and intensity of BC’s defense and its smart decision-making proved to be the difference maker in curtailing High Point’s offense. Not only is 33 points the fewest that BC has allowed during Jim Christian’s tenure, but it also came just a point shy of tying the program’s 2010 mark against NJIT for fewest points allowed in the last 20 years.

2) Rebounds

With nearly half of its roster measuring over 6-foot-6, BC has size on its side under the net. Boasting big men like Nik Popovic, CJ Felder, and Steffon Mitchell, the Eagles have the pieces to crash the boards well. BC looked sharp on both sides of the court, tallying 12 rebounds on offense and 29 on defense. 

In the same vein as the last game, Mitchell led the team in rebounds, logging 10 total boards—three of which came on the offensive glass—as well as 10 points, four steals, one block, and two assists. The junior standout proves time after time to be an x-factor on both offense and defense as he goes end to end, stuffing the stat sheet.

3) Maintaining Leads

After breaking out with a 10-point lead in the first five minutes of the game, the Eagles looked to be firmly in the driver’s seat. It wasn’t long until that lead all but disappeared, though, as High Point went on a 7-0 run to bring the game within three. BC struggled shooting the ball, leading to a season-low 59 points on offense. As a result, the Eagles only had a single-digit advantage for the majority of the first half, but they began to distance themselves with two minutes left in the period. 

From then on, it was smooth sailing. BC kept the Panthers at arms’ length for the remainder of the game, holding onto both its offensive momentum and its defensive intensity, an aspect which head coach Jim Christian described after the game as “[their] identity.” 

4) Managing Turnovers

Between botched passes and unnecessary infractions, the Eagles turned the ball over too many times for comfort, especially against an inexperienced Big South foe. The score remained relatively close throughout large portions of the first half, partly due to the Eagles’ turnovers eliminating fast breaks and unguarded shots in the paint. 

The image of BC’s perfect record is marred by the fact that the Eagles can’t seem to consistently connect on passes or maintain possession. Yes, BC is making up for it on the other end of the floor—it’s forcing an average of 22 turnovers per game and created 29 against the Panthers—but it still needs to protect the ball better. In the first half, the Eagles gave up six turnovers, which, though it was a marked improvement from the last game, still cost them vital points. BC ended the night with 13 total turnovers. The Eagles are ranked 221st in the country in turnover percentage (21.1 percent) and will need to clean that up moving forward if they are to compete with the ACC’s best down the road.

5) Perimeter Shooting

The Eagles struggled mightily from beyond the arc, shooting just 12 percent from 3-point range as they went 3-of-25 on the day. BC could have benefitted from holding onto the ball just a bit longer and taking the extra dribble to charge the paint, an area in which it had much more success. Even its jump shots from inside the arc were much more effective, as the Eagles hit at a nearly 40 percent from just a few feet closer to the glass. 

Their two 3-pointers in the first half both came at the hands of senior guard Jared Hamilton, who finished the game with 12 total points, but only one other BC player, Jay Heath, hit a single 3-point shot. Unless BC gets its 3-point percentage up, going forward, it might be advantageous for the Eagles to hang onto the ball for just a bit longer and look for an opening inside.

Ultimately, BC strung together an excellent game defensively with room for improvement on offense. The Eagles are 3-0 for the second time in three seasons, but the quality of opponent has been better—save for High Point, BC has beat a USF team fresh off a strong year and also already has an ACC win over Wake Forest. The Eagles’ level of play has been encouraging for the BC faithful, as instead of leaning on guards to push the pace in transition and win shootouts, the team appears to have the ability to win on the strength of defense.

Featured Image by Aneesa Wermers / For The Heights

November 14, 2019

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