Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Saint Louis Uses 21-0 Second-Half Run, Downs BC, 64-54

When Boston College men’s basketball went without a field goal against visiting Saint Louis for nearly nine minutes at the end of the first half, many would expect the Eagles to limp into halftime staring at a sizeable deficit.

Instead, BC’s defense kept the Billikens in check well, and an ugly half closed with the Eagles holding a slim 26-24 lead. BC looked slightly better on offense out of the break, holding a three-point lead with 16 minutes to go after a Nik Popovic layup, but then—in a manner similar to the first half—the wheels came off. This time, St. Louis wasn’t going to let a prolonged drought go to waste.

The Billikens went on a 21-0 run behind junior guard Jordan Goodwin, building an insurmountable lead, then fought off a late surge to hand BC a disappointing 64-54 loss on Wednesday afternoon in Conte Forum. 

“It’s a one-point game, two-point game, and it goes to 15 because we become disconnected,” a frustrated head coach Jim Christian said. “I don’t know why for one stretch per night we do that. I don’t understand why the beginning of the game is not carrying for 40 minutes.” 

Goodwin piled up 20 points and 14 rebounds while teammate Hasahn French—who played just four minutes in the first half after running into foul trouble—chipped in an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double, and the Billikens (6-1) handed a struggling BC (4-3) side its second loss in a row.

Derryck Thornton nearly played the whole game and had a team-high 18 points for the Eagles, but he offset a seven-rebound, five-assist effort with seven turnovers. BC looked disjointed offensively for much of the game and couldn’t benefit from many second-chance efforts—the Eagles managed just six offensive rebounds and five second-chance points. The same couldn’t be said about the Billikens, who came away with a 49-37 edge in boards and totaled 16 points off 17 offensive rebounds. 

That decisive edge wasn’t always there for the visitors, though, as BC impressed out of the gate. The Eagles matched up with the more physical Saint Louis side and jumped out to a 10-1 lead on the strength of four points from Popovic and an and-1 from Thornton. They led by as much as 10 before the game ground to a halt. At the under-eight media timeout, BC led, 17-10, but had turned it over four times in the previous three minutes while the Billikens were just 4-of-17 from the field.

The Eagles’ last field goal had come on a Popovic dunk with 13 minutes to go, and they didn’t hit another until Chris Herren Jr. came off the bench and knocked in a 3-pointer with 3:41 left. Thornton had four free throws during the lull to keep BC ahead, but Saint Louis answered Herren’s 3-pointer with a quick 7-0 run to tie it up. Jairus Hamilton, who took a hard fall and missed some time, returned to sink a pair of free throws and give BC the two-point cushion at the break.

At the start of the second half, it seemed like the two teams would be locked in a back-and-forth battle. They traded buckets until a Thornton 3-pointer and Popovic layup erased a brief Saint Louis lead to give the Eagles a 35-32 edge. Little did BC know that Popovic’s bucket would be the last points for the team for a nearly nine-minute span. 

French got on the board with a layup, and Gibson Jimerson sank a 3-pointer—three of 11 points off the bench for the freshman—before Goodwin took over. The shifty guard scored nine straight points for the Billikens, single-handedly stretching the visitors’ lead to double-digits. Another layup from French and five straight points from Jimerson capped the run off with the Eagles staring at an 18-point deficit.

“We start off doing things great at the beginning of the game, but we’re just not able to maintain that for 40 minutes,” Christian said. “They started off poorly, but once they got in their rhythm, they never came out of it. We got into a great rhythm, but came out of it, and I don’t understand why.”

A pair of Javonte Perkins free throws and a French dunk stretched the lead to a game-high 20 points, but the Billikens went cold shortly afterward and were unable to put the game away at the charity stripe. Saint Louis was just 15-of-23 on free throws in the game, going 8-of-17 in the second half alone. The Billikens let BC back into the game as the Eagles somewhat woke up, going on a 6-0 and 8-0 run in the lead-up to the final minute.

Still, a 21-0 run in the second half is basically impossible to recover from, and Christian was blunt in his confusion over why this keeps happening. The Eagles have had a tendency to struggle for prolonged stretches throughout this year—just look at their last few games. They’ve suffered an 8-0 stretch against DePaul, a 10-0 run against Eastern Washington, and a 24-4 run against Belmont.

“Those stretches are killing us,” he said. “Those three-, four-minute stretches where we either turn it over and give up a layup. You just can’t have those stretches of basketball.”

Until the Eagles can string together a full 40 minutes without prolonged stretches—they went dormant offensively not once but twice against the Billikens—this team will be in line for quite a few frustrating losses. Christian’s postgame press conference struck a tone of disappointment and confusion over why his team is unable to maintain its high level, and it’ll be up to him and his coaching staff to try to sort this out before the perils of ACC play begin.

Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / Heights Staff

November 27, 2019