Boston College men’s basketball has been plagued by a short bench for most of its season so far, and Saturday’s matchup against Syracuse was no exception. BC had seven active scholarship players against the Orange, giving plenty of opportunities for the five available walk-ons to fill in. Andrew Kenny was the only walk-on to appear, however, and he saw just one minute on the floor, leaving only seven players to do the vast majority of the heavy lifting.
Despite the lack of manpower, Saturday’s game was a big improvement from the last time the two teams met, when Syracuse (12-6, 6-5 Atlantic Coast) came to Conte Forum and dismantled the Eagles by double digits. BC (3-13, 1-9) seemed to play with renewed energy on Saturday even without a full roster but still dropped a 75-67 decision at the Carrier Dome.
“We executed so much better today than we did the first time we played them,” BC head coach Jim Christian said. “We got great shots, and I thought we attacked the zone very, very well.”
Despite the improvement, Syracuse’s infamous 2-3 zone defense proved to be difficult to score on yet again, as the Eagles struggled to get easy looks inside. All together, BC’s 67 points came on 23-of-63 shooting from the field and 9-of-31 shooting from 3-point range.
The Eagles took their only lead in the game off of a Rich Kelly 3-pointer around three minutes into the first half. Aside from the lone exception where BC led 6-4, the Eagles fought from behind, turning defense into offense and capitalizing in transition.
BC managed to hang around for 40 minutes by staying active on the defensive end, forcing 16 Syracuse turnovers throughout the afternoon. During their late first-half run, in which they cut their deficit to two points, the Eagles used a full-court press after made baskets to force back-to-back Syracuse turnovers.
While the full-court press was effective, playing defense for 94 feet was tough to do for extended periods of time without a full active roster. Christian applauded the efforts of his team, but he mentioned fatigue, and the frequent layoffs due to injuries and health protocols that his players have had to deal with, as huge factors in the result.
“Again, this whole thing is about health,” Christian said. “We want to win and we’re going to do everything we can to win. But if a guy’s coming off that type of layoff, he’s not going to be where he was right away.”
Christian was talking about freshman guard DeMarr Langford Jr., who returned to game action against Syracuse after only one practice. Langford played 20 minutes and scored 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting against the Orange.
Steffon Mitchell played in his usual stat sheet-stuffing form, recording 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting, which complemented his 10 rebounds and four assists.
Sophomore duo CJ Felder and Jay Heath continued their streak of strong play. Felder contributed nine points and 12 rebounds, while Heath scored 14 points and had two steals on the defensive end.
For the Orange, all five starters scored in double figures, led by Joe Girard III who posted 16 points, including two quick threes in the first half.
The win for Syracuse means that the Orange have now won 12 of their 15 matchups with the Eagles since joining the ACC, including wins in all six of their last meetings.
The game marked the fourth-straight loss for BC, a streak the Eagles will try to end in their next matchup at Georgia Tech on Wednesday. BC will look to move on from the loss, and hopefully see some more players return to action before Wednesday’s game.
“You’ve got to let them play through the fatigue a little bit,” Christian said. “You know they’re going to make some mistakes but it’s going to help us, you know, in the long run. The more bodies we have the better we can be.”
Featured Image by Molly Bankert / Heights Staff