Huge losses have become something of Boston College men’s basketball head coach Jim Christian’s signature during his time on the Heights. The Eagles lost five games by at least 20 points last season and, including Saturday, have been defeated by that margin 26 times during Christian’s six-plus years in charge.
The pattern continued in BC’s home opener against Syracuse on Saturday afternoon in a particularly egregious fashion, as the Eagles (1-5, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) stumbled to a 101-63 defeat against the Orange (4-1, 1-0). The margin was the second-largest BC loss under Christian’s tenure, only exceeded by the 39-point drubbing that Duke leveled against the Eagles last season.
In his postgame press conference, Christian said that he was surprised and confused by the performance.
“We came out the game, started lethargic, I have no idea why,” Christian said. “We had been playing really hard. We played really hard on Tuesday night. Sometimes, as the head coach, you have to just take responsibility for things that you really have no answer for. There’s no way I saw that coming.”
BC looked unorganized and uninspired on defense, consistently allowing Syracuse easy baskets on simple cuts from the perimeter. Orange forward Quincy Guerrier dominated down low, scoring 14 points and grabbing five boards. The Eagles did themselves no favors in their attempts to guard him, as they bewilderingly allowed him to match up against a smaller guard in the post on numerous occasions.
Syracuse had even more success on the perimeter, draining 16 of its 31 attempts from behind the arc as it had little trouble finding open looks against the Eagles’ lackluster defense. Guard Alan Griffin went six-of-nine from downtown as part of a game high 22-point performance. Joseph Girard III added another five triples.
The Orange sat comfortably in their classic 2-3 zone defense and forced BC to shoot from the perimeter. The Eagles’ guards gladly accepted the opportunities, tossing up 31 attempts, but hitting just eight of them.
“For the first ten minutes I thought we got great shots: shots that we should make, shots that we’re very capable of making against the zone, and I think that affected us,” Christian said. “When guys missed a couple shots early that they know they should make, I saw them hang their head, not sprint back—it’s just not who we need to be.”
Syracuse also proved itself exceptionally good at getting back in transition, which limited the ability of BC’s guards to use their speed and open floor ability to get easy buckets.
Jay Heath and Makai Ashton-Langford particularly struggled, scoring just five points apiece and shooting below 20 percent from the field.
Syracuse jumped out to a 13-5 lead just five minutes into the game on the back of three quick 3-pointers and never looked back. The Orange led 48-30 at halftime and by as much as 48 at times during the second half. A 3-pointer by Rich Kelly with 12 seconds to play was the only thing that prevented the loss from being the biggest of Christian’s tenure.
The lone bright spot for the Eagles was the strong play of James Karnik. Karnik, a transfer from Lehigh who finally received a waiver to be immediately eligible earlier this month, had looked solid in his first two games but fully came into his own on Saturday. He showed that he has the ability to be the post presence BC has so sorely lacked. His 20 points and eight rebounds were both team highs.
“I thought he rebounded the ball pretty well,” Christian said. “Obviously he’s getting used to finishing against longer, more athletic guys, but his effort, his effort was great, his attitude was great.”
With another double-digit loss in the books, Christian is inching closer and closer to the hot seat. With a full slate of ACC games ahead of them, he and the Eagles will have to shape up against increasingly tough conference competition.
Featured Image by Molly Bankert / Heights Staff