Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Notebook: Eagles Can’t Find Offensive Rhythm, Shooting Woes Persist

Boston College men’s basketball can’t seem to hit its stride this season, as the Eagles extended their losing streak to four after falling to Northwestern, 82-64. The Eagles (4-5, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) have now dipped below .500 for the first time this season as they continue to search for an offensive identity. Northwestern (4-3) came in looking like a beatable opponent for BC, having lost previous contests to Merrimack, Radford, and Pittsburgh. The Wildcats clicked on Tuesday, however, scoring a season-high 82 in their 18-point rout of BC. 

Shooting Woes Continue to Plague BC

The Eagles came into Tuesday’s game shooting just 39.6 percent from the field as a team, a clip that they would surely have liked to improve upon. They didn’t help themselves much in that regard at all, though BC’s lack of offense was evident early on. With around nine minutes to go in the opening half, in a game that BC led 20-19, things really started to go south offensively. BC lost control of the game on a scoring drought that lasted over six minutes, egged on by the Eagles’ five turnovers in that time. BC’s lack of offense fueled a 16-0 Northwestern run, resulting in a 35-20 lead for the Wildcats. BC tried to respond, exploding for a 7-0 run of their own in just over a minute of play, but it was far from enough. The Eagles finished the night shooting 44.8 percent from the field and a meager 29.6 percent from the three.

After the game, coach Jim Christian lamented his team’s tendency to fall into offensive lulls. “We just keep digging holes,” said Christian, adding that the Eagles’ offensive struggles are leading to “double mistakes.” 

Wildcats Overcome Shooting Struggles to Outshine BC

The game told a very different story for Northwestern’s offense, as it ended up being a fantastic shooting night for the Wildcats—a team who entered Conte Forum with offensive struggles of its own. Coming into Tuesday’s game shooting 40 percent from the field as a team, the Wildcats made 57 percent of their shots in their first half and 55 percent from deep. They finished the game shooting 58 percent overall. 

Jairus Hamilton Leads the Way on a Quiet Offensive Night

There weren’t many highlights on BC’s offensive end, but sophomore Jairus Hamilton turned in an encouraging performance. In his third game back from the knee injury he suffered on opening night, Hamilton notched a team-high 12 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Hamilton shot an efficient 5-of-10 from the field, adding two 3-pointers in 26 minutes of action.

Kopp, Buie Shine for the Wildcats

Certainly not known for its offensive prowess, Northwestern didn’t appear to have a significant scoring threat on its roster—at least on paper. The player to watch was expected to be athletic forward Pete Nance, the team leader in points per game who entered tonight averaging 12.2 per contest. Even so, BC held Nance in check, limiting him to just eight points on six shot attempts. 

It was sophomore Miller Kopp and freshman Boo Buie who provided a spark for the Wildcats. Kopp, the sharpshooter, gave them some much needed energy with his ability to connect from both beyond the arc and from midrange. He finished with 20 points, shooting 4-of-8 from deep, and is now hitting 3-pointers at a 43.8 percent average for the season. 

Kopp’s teammate Buie matched that output with 20 points of his own off the bench. Buie came alive in the second half, going a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and slashing his way to the basket with ease. Northwestern coach Chris Collins was very pleased with Buie’s stellar performance in what he deemed the team’s “first true road win” of the season.

Steffon Mitchell is Finding His Shot

Perhaps the most exciting development of the game for the Eagles was Steffon Mitchell’s outside shooting. He made two shots from deep, marking his first two makes from beyond the arc on the season. His four attempts in the game were also a season-high. While Mitchell’s long range shot is still a work in progress, it was encouraging to see an increased confidence in his play making ability.

Turnovers Continue to be a Problem for Derryck Thornton

Thornton, often the go-to point man for the Eagles, continues to raise concerns with taking care of the ball. Although he is the primary scoring option on offense, ball handling has been an issue for the USC graduate transfer. He had four turnovers tonight, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is now 1.0 on the dot—not a promising number for a team whose success hinges on limiting its own mistakes. Hopefully this is something he can figure out in time for the tougher stretch of the Eagles’ schedule. 

Thornton, Heath Gave BC Some Life at the End, but it Wasn’t Enough

Thornton and fellow backcourt partner Jay Heath led a scoring charge at the tail end of the game as BC attempted to claw its way back. Thornton showed a sense of urgency, scoring seven points in the final seven minutes. Heath chipped in by scoring all 10 of his points in the second half on 4-of-9 shooting. With 2:20 to go, BC had cut the deficit to 10 (after being down by as much as 20 in the second half). Northwestern, however, refused to let the Eagles back in the game. The Wildcats swiftly evaded the BC full-court press, leading to easy layups for the visitors that completely thwarted the Eagles’ comeback attempts. 

The road does not get any easier from here for BC, as it travels to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in what is sure to be a tough game for the Eagles. The Fighting Irish are off to a hot 6-1 start with their only loss coming to No. 7 North Carolina. BC will need to be much better on both ends of the floor if it wants to prevent its losing streak from reaching five games.

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

December 4, 2019