Steffon Mitchell has had a quiet season for Boston College men’s basketball so far this season. His name was plastered all over the headlines during the 2019-20 season as the forward stuffed the stat sheet game after game. His point and rebound averages this season have been about the same as last year, though he’s gone about it in a much quieter way.
But on Saturday afternoon, the Eagles made a trip to Notre Dame, and Mitchell emerged from the woodwork. The senior played all but one minute of the game and put up his second double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but even that wasn’t enough to save the Eagles from a familiar loss. Despite Mitchell’s efforts, the Eagles (3-10, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) fell 80-70 in South Bend.
“I think he’s gotten better,” BC head coach Jim Christian said of Mitchell. “I think he’s playing with more confidence. He’s attacking the basket more, and balls are going in. So, when balls go in, you play a little bit better.”
Notre Dame (4-8, 1-5) has fared just about as well as the struggling Eagles have so far this season. The Irish entered the game on Saturday having won just one of their last six games, while the Eagles have won two in that same span. Even so, a balanced performance from Notre Dame held BC in its spot near the basement of the ACC standings.
Though the final score was lopsided in Notre Dame’s favor, the stats show a clean, well-executed game for the Eagles. BC coughed up the ball just nine times and only committed eight fouls. Notre Dame played a similarly tight game but pulled away on double-digit performances of five of its players.
“Guys have just got to stay focused,” Christian said. “Like I told our team, in order to win on the road, you’ve got to play with maturity. … We didn’t turn the ball over a great deal, but we turned it over [at] key times.”
One of those key times came just five minutes into the game, when Rich Kelly turned the ball to give Notre Dame an early 7-0 run. But similar runs from both teams were the story of the game. The Irish led for 36 minutes of the game, thanks in large part to its scoring runs, but time and again, BC fought its way back into it, only to fall apart minutes later.
After 20 minutes of play, Notre Dame led 42-32. BC’s halftime deficit was a result of a slow offensive start for the Eagles—shooting just 21.4 percent from the floor through 10 minutes— and a late Notre Dame surge, finishing the half on a 15-8 run.
The second half was more of the same story for the Eagles. After cutting Notre Dame’s double-digit lead down to as little as six after five minutes, the wheels fell off for the Eagles, and they conceded a 13-2 run to hand a 17-point lead right back to the home team.
“We had that stretch where we broke down, and when you’ve got a team like [Notre Dame], you open up the floodgates and they get confidence,” Christian said. “We gave them confidence. They’ve still got to make shots, they’re great players … but I thought we gave them confidence.”
As a result of that confidence, no matter where it came from, Notre Dame excelled in long-distance shooting, sinking 45.2 percent of its shots from 3-point range compared to BC’s 31 percent.
“We knew they were going to have their opportunities,” Christian said of Notre Dame. “We needed to just be a little more communicative with one another. Just half a step more effort and show a little more maturity. If we do that, we put ourselves in a good spot.”
Featured Image by Robert Franklin / AP Photo