Three days after taking down North Carolina, Boston College men’s basketball fell just short of defeating ACC powerhouse Duke by a final of 63-55. BC (11-12, 5-7 Atlantic Coast) led for nearly 28 minutes of regulation, but it only takes a short lapse for No. 7 Duke (19-3, 9-2) to completely change the course of a game. And that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night.
The Eagles did nearly everything they could to win the game, and their play looked like that of a winning team. They collapsed, however, on a three-minute run near the end of the game in which Duke’s pressing defense forced timely turnovers and mental mistakes that ultimately cost BC the game. Although the Eagles couldn’t finish the job, it was one of the more well-played games by Jim Christian’s squad this year. Here are some takeaways:
BC Unable to Capitalize on Duke’s Slow Start
Though the last meeting between the two was a blowout, Tuesday’s game told a different story early on. The Blue Devils’ starting five came out sluggish from the opening tip. It got so bad for head coach Mike Krzyzewski that he was five players deep into his bench within the first few minutes of the game. Duke was allowing easy offensive rebounds and second-chance possessions for BC. Add the Blue Devils’ lack of defense to the fact that none of their shots could fall—it started off 2-15 from the field—and it seemed like a recipe for disaster.
The Eagles led for all but one minute of the first half, but their lead was insecure for much of that time. It could’ve been due to nervous jitters or trying to play too fast, but BC committed 10 turnovers in the first half alone. Whether it was errant or dropped passes, travels, or offensive fouls, many of the Eagles’ turnovers were self-inflicted.
BC had a chance to blow the game wide open, but the largest its lead ever got was 10 points. Duke ended up shooting 27 percent from the floor to close out the half, but BC was not much better at 40 percent. The Blue Devils converted none of their 12 3-point attempts, but BC was unable to make any of its nine attempts either. All in all, the opening period ended with BC clinging to a 24-21 lead, and the Eagles will look back on those 20 minutes as an opportunity squandered.
Steffon Mitchell’s Effort Leads BC’s Defense
One of Steffon Mitchell’s defining traits is his relentless effort on defense. Standing at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, Mitchell is not the prototypical player assigned to 6-foot-10, 270 pound Vernon Carey Jr., a potential Wooden Award finalist who notoriously kills defenses inside. One thing that cannot be measured is Mitchell’s heart, and he used it to play bigger than his 6-foot-8 frame in Tuesday’s matchup.
Carey ended up with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but he shot just 5-of-13 from the floor. A lot of those misses had to do with Mitchell’s physical, swarming defense. Not only was Mitchell’s ability to affect his shots impressive, but he and the team’s collective ability to secure rebounds over a Duke team with a definitive size advantage was something to be proud of. BC won the rebounding battle 40-39, with Mitchell grabbing 12 on his own. It was only the second time the Eagles have out-rebounded their opponent in ACC play so far this season.
Derryck Thornton Bounces Back Against His Former School
Eagles fans got to see the best of Thornton as he took over the load on the offensive end. The point guard dropped 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, and when the team needed them, he knocked down some vital free throws, going 7-of-8 from the line. Thornton’s poise was key to keeping the Eagles in the game, but it was also nice to see him playing at a very high level against his old team. When the two squads faced off back in December, Thornton managed just six points in what was an ugly 88-49 loss. Thornton looked like a much more motivated player on the court Tuesday night, and he received high praise from his former coach.
“Derryck played great tonight,” Krzyzewski remarked, adding that “he’s got his bounce, he was really athletic and good tonight.”
Dreadful Three-Point Shooting Impacts Both Sides
There was almost no production from beyond the arc in Tuesday’s game. For Duke, the 3-point drought was unprecedented, as the Blue Devils are averaging 36.4 percent from behind the arc, good for third in the ACC. For BC, its struggles from deep were a deciding factor in its loss. The Blue Devils and the Eagles shot 1-of-15 and 2-of-18 from deep, respectively, a combined 9 percent conversion rate.
While Christian loved the shots his team took, he acknowledged that they simply have to knock more down in order to defeat a team of Duke’s caliber.
“I’m signing up for all of the shots we took … those are wide open three-point shots,” Christian said. “If you’re gonna beat Duke, you gotta make step-in threes. …Those are shots you gotta take to beat them, and if you want to beat them, you have to make them.”
Despite the loss, BC has played inspiring basketball as of late. The Eagles have arguably played their best during the toughest stretch of their season, certainly rising up to the level of competition. They hung with No. 5 Louisville for nearly 30 minutes, downed North Carolina, and came very close to upsetting an excellent Duke team.
Featured Image by Kait Devir / Heights Staff