Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Notebook: Eagles’ Shooting Woes, Rebounding Struggles Continue in Loss to Saint Louis

Hasahn French must have been licking his chops on his way to Chestnut Hill. Coming off a 21-point, 24-rebound, seven-block performance against Belmont, the 6-foot-7 Saint Louis forward was gearing up to play Boston College men’s basketball, a team that came into Wednesday ranking 315th in average rebounding margin (-4) and tied for 266th in total rebounds per game (34.17). French spearheaded a historic effort in the Billikens’ win over Belmont, as Saint Louis recorded 60 rebounds in the victory—the program’s most in a single game since 1986.

Against BC, however, Saint Louis was slow to establish itself on the glass, in large part because French only played four minutes in the first half. After two quick fouls, the junior made a home for himself on the bench, not in the paint. The Billikens shot just 26.7 percent from the field in the opening frame and coughed up the ball 11 times. 

Head coach Jim Christian and the Eagles had a chance to capitalize, but Steffon Mitchell picked up three personals of his own and—despite jumping out to a 14-6 lead—BC struggled to maintain a multi-possession advantage, missing 10 of its last 11 field goal attempts of the period. Those shooting woes continued in the second half, and shortly after French returned, the Billikens stitched together a 21-0 run to give Saint Louis a lead that even quelled a late-game BC push. Saint Louis (6-1) held on for the 64-54 win, handing the Eagles (4-3, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) their third loss in their last four games.

Nik Popovic, Derryck Thornton got off to a hot start
Nik Popovic and Derryck Thornton, the Eagles’ top two leading scorers, logged 14 of BC’s first 16 points. A bit more than two minutes into the contest, Popovic stepped in front of a Yuri Collins pass that was intended for Jimmy Bell Jr. Once he snatched the steal, Popovic pushed the ball down the court and finished in transition with a two-handed flush. Then, Popovic drew a charge on French—the forward’s second foul—forcing French to take a seat. Thornton, meanwhile, recorded seven points in the first seven minutes of play.

Jairus Hamilton returned to the court but gave Conte Forum another injury scare

After missing five straight games with a knee injury, Jairus Hamilton made his way back into the rotation on Wednesday, and the 6-foot-8 forward didn’t take long to etch his name in the scorecard. In fact, the former ESPN 100 recruit drilled his first shot back, a long 2-pointer from the left wing, to give BC an early 4-1 lead. 

Hamilton finished with eight points on 2-of-6 shooting, yet he nearly suffered another injury. With seven and a half minutes left in the first half, the Charlotte, N.C., native elevated for a rebound—the problem was, he came up short and fell on the hunched back of Saint Louis forward Javonte Perkins. Hamilton hit the floor hard, grimaced in pain, and limped off the court. Fortunately for the Eagles, he was back on the hardwood in the second half.

With Heath out, Rishwain earned the start, and it didn’t go as planned

Jay Heath, who averaged 12.7 points per game in his first six career games, missed Wednesday’s contest with a fever, leaving a vacancy in the starting five. Fellow freshman Julian Rishwain—hot off a season-best 15-point outing against DePaul—got the nod. Unlike his previous game, where Rishwain hit 4-of-7 from deep, the Sherman Oaks, Calif., native couldn’t seem to find his 3-point shot. He missed all three of his long-range attempts, committed a first-half traveling violation, and was scoreless on the day, playing just 14 minutes as a starter.

Once again, BC was outclassed on the glass

For the fourth time this season, the Eagles were outrebounded by 10 or more boards. When all was said and done, Saint Louis rounded out the day with 49 rebounds, 17 of which came on the offensive end of the floor. The rebounding advantage led to 16 second-chance points for the Billikens and played a big role in Saint Louis’ 21-0 run. 

Granted, the Billikens came into Chestnut Hill ranked 13th in offensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom, but the Eagles didn’t do much to make it a battle on the glass. A lot of it comes down to effort, considering that Saint Louis’ Jordan Goodwin—a 6-foot-3 guard—tallied a game-high 14 rebounds, six more than both Popovic and Mitchell.

Goodwin put his foot on the pedal at the right time

Goodwin is nearly averaging a double-double as a guard. The junior leads the Billikens in scoring with 16.1 points per game and is second to French in rebounding with 9.1 boards per contest. On Wednesday, he racked up 20 points and 14 rebounds, game highs in both categories. Most of his production came in the second half, though—Goodwin shot 7-of-10 from the floor in the latter portion of play, recording 15 points, in addition to eight second-half rebounds. Goodwin slashed through the paint, at one point booking back-to-back trips to the free throw line for consecutive and-one opportunities. 

The Eagles’ last-ditch effort was too little, too late

In the span of three minutes and 40 seconds, BC turned a 20-point blowout into a six-point game with under one minute left in regulation. Thanks to a slew of jumpers, namely a trio of 3-pointers from the Hamilton brothers and Chris Herren Jr., and the Billikens’ poor free throw shooting, the Eagles orchestrated a 17-3 run in the final stages of play. Eventually, BC’s hot streak ended, and Saint Louis closed out the win. The scoring surge was intriguing, but—as has often been the case during Christian’s six-year tenure—these miraculous late-game runs hardly ever flip BC’s script.

Even with the comeback attempt, BC still ended the day shooting a season-worst 35.2 percent from the field. The Eagles have now converted on fewer than 37 percent of their shots in three separate games this year—last season, they didn’t stoop below that mark until Feb. 5 at No. 2 Duke.

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

November 29, 2019