Sports, Winter, Basketball

Despite a Late Lead, Victory Eludes BC in Overtime Loss to Minnesota

As a general rule of thumb, most basketball games are won by the team that makes the most field goals, especially when 12 of them are 3-pointers. Unfortunately for Boston College men’s basketball, the Eagles were the exception to the rule in an 80-85 overtime loss to Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers (5-0) won the game from the free-throw line. BC (1-4) took 10 shots from the line all night, while Minnesota took 33. The only thing that kept BC in the game was Minnesota’s 69.7 percent free throw percentage, but even 10 forgone free points at the line could not seal the game for the Eagles.

The score was close throughout the first half, though BC did not get its usual points in the paint. In fact, in the first half they shot better from behind the arc than in front. BC did not score a 2-point field goal until just 12:33 remained in the first half. They ended the half with six 2-pointers and six 3-pointers on the stat sheet, an unusual occurrence for a BC team that ranked No. 303 in the NCAA last season in 3-point percentage.

BC led 31-30 at the close of the first half, and the Eagles’ momentum carried over after the break. The Eagles started the second half hot, scoring six straight points after getting the tip off. BC took a 52-37 lead with 14:05 on the clock following a 3-pointer by Jay Heath. 

But the 15-point lead did not last long. 

“A couple guys came out of character and tried to do too much, and we had a couple turnovers,” BC head coach Jim Christian said in his postgame press conference. “It’s not what we need to be doing … and it’s disappointing but we got to learn to get better.”

Unfortunately, the Eagles did not get better fast enough.

Minnesota responded to BC’s lead with a 16-0 run of its own, bringing the score to 52-53 and giving the Golden Gophers their first lead of the half. Rich Kelly ended the Minnesota run with a layup, but the damage had already been done. 

“We did a great job on them, and then we let them get going,” Christian said. “And then, offensively, we came out of character. We took quick shots, one possession [Steffon Mitchell] tried to go one-on-one from the top of the key—we just need to keep running offense and get a good shot especially with the lead.”

The Eagles and the Golden Gophers traded shots for the remainder of the second half. With 5.4 seconds left in the half and BC down by two, Makai Ashton-Langford tied the score with a layup, sending the game into overtime.

BC entered overtime down two starters: CJ Felder and Steffon Mitchell had both fouled out of the game. 

“It takes a lot off the court,” Christian said. “It takes away our most experienced player, it takes away a guy who was our best rebounder in the game, and it puts us in some different ball-screen coverages that we just blew … With more experience, they wouldn’t make those mistakes.”

Minnesota guard Marcus Carr led his team to the five-point win. Carr—No. 6 nationally in scoring prior to Tuesday’s game—scored 22 points with five rebounds and six assists on the night. 

“We just had to do a better job of taking care of the basketball,” Christian said. “We had some careless turnovers, and then, obviously … they got good players. Marcus Carr is a heck of a player—he’s going to get going. He’s a leading scorer in the country.”

BC’s scoring was led by the backcourt duo of Heath and Wynston Tabbs. The two combined for 40 points, Tabbs leading the way with a season-high 24. Tabbs missed significant time following knee surgery in 2019, and he is finally back on the court to boost the Eagles’ depth and experience. 

Heath and Tabbs helped BC prove its ability to succeed from behind the arc in Tuesday’s game. They each made four 3-pointers, and Kelly contributed with two more off the bench. James Karnik also made his second 3-pointer of this season after making none last year with Lehigh. 

BC’s play on Tuesday was not as messy as in previous games. The Eagles still turned the ball over 16 times, but that was not what cost them the game. Instead, it was their 24 fouls. Some of these came at the end of the game, but those do not account for all of BC’s foul trouble. 

Fouls cost the Eagles two of their best players prior to overtime and ultimately granted the Golden Gophers 23 free points on foul shots, sending the Eagles home with their fourth defeat of the season.

Featured Image by Jim Mone / AP Photo

December 9, 2020