Sports, Men's Basketball, Basketball

Notebook: Turnovers, 3-Point Woes Cripple Eagles Against Duke

Anyone who’s a fan of the underdog story was certainly pulling for Boston College men’s basketball on Tuesday, where the last-seed Eagles had the chance to defy all odds and take down 10th-seed Duke. 

Coming off a blowout loss to rival North Carolina, Duke has not been the powerhouse team this season that ACC fans are used to seeing. In fact, Tuesday marked the first time that the Blue Devils played on the first night of the ACC Tournament instead of earning a bye. And while BC (4-15, 2-11 Atlantic Coast) has had few reasons to celebrate so far this season, the potential of another 2017 miracle over Duke (12-11, 9-9) seemed exciting. 

Unlike in 2017, when the unranked Eagles took down the then-No. 1 Blue Devils in a regular-season matchup, the game was not played at Conte Forum, there were no fans ready to storm the court, and as has been the case for much of the 2020-21 season, the Eagles fell short, ending their season on an 86-51 loss.

The Not-So-Golden Arc

Defending the 3-pointer has been a problem all season for the Eagles, and Tuesday’s game was no different. The Blue Devils drained a season-high 15 3-pointers, going 15-of-32 from beyond the arc and 32-of-61 from the field. On the other end, BC shot miserably, going 1-of-15 from three and 15-of-41 from the field. BC had shot the long ball at a relatively good clip this season—33.7 percent, an increase of 3 percent from the 2019-20 season—but nothing was falling for the Eagles in Greensboro on Tuesday. 

The Return of Turnovers

Protecting the ball was another aspect of the game that the Eagles had improved upon in recent weeks. On Senior Night last week against Notre Dame, BC committed just five turnovers. On Tuesday against Duke, that number jumped to 19. The Blue Devils capitalized with 23 points off BC turnovers. The Eagles’ offensive woes, combined with turnover after turnover, led to a 35-point differential at the final whistle, marking BC’s second-largest loss of the season.

Minutes To Go Around

One positive of being on the losing side of a blowout, particularly in a season-ending game, is that those at the end of the bench get to see some minutes. While the members of BC’s walk-on squad, affectionately dubbed the “Martians,” have gotten pretty used to hearing their names called due to injuries, transfers, and COVID-19-related protocols this season, all 14 BC players who dressed for the game saw the court for BC on Tuesday. Freshman walk-on Quinn Pemberton made the most of his one minute of playing time, posting the team’s sole positive plus-minus rating. 

Is This Goodbye for Steffon Mitchell?

BC was without senior Steffon Mitchell, who both interim head coach Scott Spinelli and former head coach Jim Christian have repeatedly praised for being an all-around player who consistently gives his all. He’s a dominating force on defense, though his numbers don’t always show up on the stat sheet. With the loss to Duke, Mitchell’s incredible career as an Eagle may have come to an end. He has given no word yet if he intends to return for a fifth season. James Karnik, Luka Kraljevic, Will Jackowitz, Sam Holtze, and Frederick Scott may have also played their last game for BC, though the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for winter sport athletes due to COVID-19

Back To the Future

With the Eagles’ subpar 2020-21 season now in the past, BC can turn its attention to the future. The first task at hand for BC is figuring out who will be the head coach for the 2021-22 season. BC has not made an NCAA tournament since 2009, and it hasn’t posted a winning conference record since the 2010-11 season. BC will continue the search for the solution to the problem that faced Christian and Steve Donohue before him: becoming relevant in the ACC. 

Featured Image by Gerry Broome / AP Photo

March 10, 2021