Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Eagles’ Display Weak Perimeter Defense, Fall 77–58 to Pittsburgh

Just under a year ago, Boston College men’s basketball ended Pittsburgh’s season with a dominant first-round ACC Tournament victory—the Eagles’ first conference tournament win in four years.  

But three months into the 2022–23 season, the Panthers have made clear that they are a different team. 

Pitt head coach Jeff Capel III—on the brink of losing his job at the end of last season—picked up three of his top four scorers via the transfer portal and led his team to its first 4–0 start in conference play in nine seasons this year. 

And on Tuesday night, the ACC-leading Panthers’ (19–7, 12–3 Atlantic Coast) dramatic turnaround continued, as the Eagles (12–15, 6–10) fell to Pitt on the road by a final score of 77–58. 

“We played like a young team,” BC head coach Earl Grant said. “We weren’t very mature.”

Guided by center Federiko Federiko, the Panthers’ defense shut down BC’s leading scorers Quinten Post and Makai Ashton-Langford, holding both to under 10 points for the first time since Virginia did so on Feb. 1, 2022. Each player scored seven points in the loss.

BC’s defense also faltered, as the Panthers notched 11 3-pointers—many of which came uncontested. 

“Pittsburgh was good—they made some threes, they did some good stuff, but we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” Grant said. “I thought our poise wasn’t at the level it needed to be.”

Both offenses struggled to find their footing in the game’s early minutes, with each squad limping out to 2-of-8 starts from the field by the first half’s 14:22 mark. 

The Eagles’ offense finally clicked via a 11–0 run near the half’s midway point. CJ Penha Jr.—playing within an unusual lineup for Grant due to Ashton-Langford’s early foul trouble—logged some early minutes and scored back-to-back layups amid BC’s run. 

“Typically, we don’t have that lineup in the game,” Grant said. “But circumstances caused us to have that lineup in the game tonight … that group was actually pretty poised at that segment, and maybe I should have gave those guys a few more minutes.”

The Panthers reclaimed the lead, however, at the 5:45 mark with a 8–0 run of their own. 

Conflict between the two former Big East rivals began to simmer late in the half, after Post grabbed at Greg Elliott’s leg. In response, referees assessed both Post and Elliott with technical fouls.  

Following that skirmish, the game unraveled for the Eagles. 

For the second straight game, BC let the contest fall out of its grasp in the half’s final minutes. With a late Pitt 14–5 run, the Eagles entered the locker room at the half down 40–31. 

“We started focusing on things we couldn’t control,” Grant said. “And, you know, I thought it took us away from the things we should have been focused on.” 

Pitt gutted BC’s perimeter defense—one of the nation’s worst—in the first half, knocking down 3-pointers at a 50 percent clip. The Panthers added five more 3-pointers in the second half.

Despite cutting Pitt’s lead down to five points at the 16:12 mark, BC let the Panthers explode for a 10–0 run to take a 54–39 lead—its largest of the game at the time. 

The Eagles had no answers for Panthers’ forward Blake Hinson—one of Capel’s offseason transfer portal acquisitions—who finished the game with 21 points on 6-of-11 3-point shooting. 

Pitt’s 21–2 run midway through the half put the nail in BC’s coffin and sent the Eagles spiraling toward their second straight double-digit loss. 

“It was a combination of us, you know, not finishing at the rim, and them doing a great job protecting with their length,” Grant said of the Panthers’ run. “You know, again, I use the word poise.” 

Post—who went scoreless in the second half—and Ashton-Langford both finished the game on the bench, with each fouling out in the final minutes. 

“We got to know why we’ve been successful when we won,” Grant said. “And we got to be okay with moving the ball and grinding and giving the defense a chance to break down.”

February 15, 2023