Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Eagles Thump Maine, Get Back on Track

As the final seconds ticked down in the Eagles’ blowout loss to Syracuse last week, Boston College men’s basketball’s lineup looked far different than it did when the Eagles started the game. Guards Rich Kelly and DeMarr Langford, mainstays of the Eagles’ rotation, were on the floor, but so were Justin Vander Baan and Andrew Kenny, bench players who only see the floor when the outcome of the game is already beyond doubt. 

Kenny and Vander Baan were on the floor again in the final minutes of the game on Tuesday, but this time, the atmosphere was much more jovial. As the Eagles’ starters cheered on their every play from the bench, BC’s bench players closed out the final two minutes of an easy win as the Eagles (2-5, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) romped Maine (0-3, 0-2 America East) 78-62. 

Even the 16-point final margin undersells BC’s dominance. The Eagles led by as much as 24 and held at least a 20-point advantage for large swaths of the second half.

The victory was the polar opposite of BC’s poor performance against Syracuse in every aspect of the game. Hapless and unenergetic on defense against the Orange, the Eagles were full of life against the Black Bears, forcing 24 turnovers. Every BC player who saw at least five minutes of court time registered a steal, and Makai Ashton-Langford came up with four takeaways.

“[We had] some good conversations as a group to get us back on track, and I thought we did that tonight,” BC head coach Jim Christian said in his postgame press conference. “What’s rewarding is sometimes when you see the team playing hard on the defensive end even when you’re not making shots, when you know guys are locked in defensively.” 

Turnovers proved to be the difference in the game as Maine shot 41 percent from the field, a respectable mark and just a tick below BC’s 44 percent clip.

The relentless defensive pressure gave the Eagles’ speedy guards opportunity after opportunity to snag easy buckets in transition. Jay Heath took particular advantage of the good chances, scoring a team-high 16 points despite 2-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. 

“We just wanted to come out [and] play with a lot of energy,” Heath said after the game. “Our defense was the main focus today. We had been giving up easy baskets, making little mental mistakes.”

CJ Felder added another 14 points and was also a force on the defensive end with a trio of blocks.

The one knock on the Eagles’ strong performance was their shooting struggles from beyond the arc. BC’s shooters had plenty of good opportunities but only connected on nine of their 32 attempts. The high volume of 3-point attempts with little success has been a pattern for the Eagles all season. BC takes an average of 28 3-pointers per game—a mark that ranks 24th in the nation—but connects on just 33 percent of those shots, which ranks 200th nationally. 

BC had originally been scheduled to play California on Tuesday, but the game was canceled due to an “abundance of caution” regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, per a statement from BC’s athletic department. The Golden Bears are now scheduled to play Seattle on Tuesday afternoon. 

Despite the lopsided final score, the Eagles started off the game sluggish and held just a one-point lead 10 minutes into the game. BC could not get a shot to fall and had no answer for Maine guard LeChaun DuHart, who nailed four 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the contest.

The two teams went in opposite directions from there. DuHart quickly cooled off, hitting just two shots the rest of the game, and BC suddenly found its stride and stormed to a 19-point halftime lead. 

Christian highlighted how important it was for the Eagles to maintain their defensive focus even when offense was a struggle in the opening minutes. 

“The good thing [is], when guys can play with a lot of defensive energy when the shots are not going in, you’re starting to build forward,” Christian said. 

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

December 23, 2020