Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Eagles Fall Apart in First Half, Lose to North Carolina

In 2020, a 20-year longitudinal study on college football teams found little to no correlation between bye weeks and an increased win percentage. Some teams benefited from the extra week’s rest while others performed worse following the break. 

When BC men’s basketball took the court Sunday after a 19-day hiatus caused by finals and a COVID-19 outbreak, the hiatus proved to have been more of a liability than an asset. The Eagles (6–6, 1–1 Atlantic Coast) looked tired all afternoon before losing 91–65 to North Carolina (10–3, 2–0) in their biggest loss of the season.

“I’m sure [the break] had something to do with it,” BC head coach Earl Grant said in his postgame press conference. “You don’t know how much it had to do with it. Guys looked a little winded early, but that’s what we’re going through. … Teams are pausing and not practicing. The ACC has got a policy—if you’ve got seven guys, you’ve got to play.”

After finishing most of its non-conference schedule before finals, BC was scheduled to kick off the bulk of ACC play against Wake Forest before Christmas. Due to an outbreak of COVID-19, the Eagles were initially forced to forfeit, and the game was later ruled a no-contest due to a policy change within the ACC.

“Everybody had the virus,” Grant said. “All coaches, all players, except one. Hopefully that means we’ll have a couple consecutive months where we don’t have to have a pause.”

Similarly to all but two of the Eagles’ games this season, BC won the second half on Sunday. As has been the theme in most of their losses this season, however, the Eagles were a disaster out of the gates, and their first-half play was only worsened by the 19-day layoff.

“I don’t make excuses because we’ve been off,” Grant said. “A mountain climber will tell you—the mountain don’t care. … Nobody cares that we’ve been off.”

BC started the game with a 4–0 lead, but that was its last lead of the game, as UNC quickly caught up with a 36–8 run that spanned most of the half. The Tar Heels led 49–20 at the end of the first half and entered the locker room showing no sign of slowing down.

BC’s first-half struggles were largely self-inflicted. The Eagles’ rust was on full display, manifesting itself most evidently in their shooting. Entering the game, BC had shot 44.1 percent from the field. Through one half of play Sunday, the Eagles had connected on just 16.7 percent of shots from the floor. Their three-point percentage was exactly the same. 

The Eagles’ play was almost equally poor in every other category during the first half. The Eagles were outrebounded 27–20, turned the ball over five times, and committed 10 personal fouls. But BC’s struggles disappeared almost magically when it re-emerged from the locker room to play the second half.

“I thought we did get a better flow in the second half.” Grant said. “We started to share the ball, we started to get second and third tries on offense, we weren’t shooting it quick so we got better shots—but anything was gonna look better in the second half because the first half was so bad.”

The Eagles shot 48.4 percent from the field in the second half—almost three times their first half percentage—while also turning the ball over just three times and forcing six UNC turnovers, committing just six personal fouls, and breaking even with the Tar Heels on rebounds. 

The beginning of the second half, however, started just as the first had ended. UNC came out firing with a 15–3 run featuring three 3-pointers by Caleb Love, and suddenly the Tar Heels led by 35. The Eagles ultimately managed to quell UNC’s momentum, and the two teams traded baskets throughout the tail end of the game before BC ultimately outscored the Tar Heels 45–42 in the second half. 

Nine Eagles scored points on Sunday, but just two managed double digits. Jaeden Zackery led BC in scoring with 13 points, and Makai Ashton-Langford trailed close behind with 12 of his own. Quinten Post came up big for BC in the post with nine rebounds and two blocks, but he totaled just two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field.

Two notable omissions from BC’s leading scorers list were Brevin Galloway and James Karnik. Both shot just 2-of-10 from the field. Galloway also failed to take a shot from inside the arc, with each of his 10 shots being tossed up from 3-point range. 

Featured Image by Aditya Rao / Heights Staff

January 3, 2022