MEN’S BASKETBALL: Defense Falls Short In Road Contest

Although the Boston College men’s basketball squad vied with the Purdue Boilermakers through the first 10 minutes of this past Wednesday’s game, the team ultimately fell behind-far behind. Unable to stymie or respond to a series of offensive drives, and struggling with fundamentals, BC lost to its Big Ten opponent 88-67.

The drubbing began with efficient 3-point shooting, as Purdue repeatedly and consistently scored from beyond the arc. During the first half, the team made five 3-pointers in eight attempts-against BC’s five in 15. Freshman guard Kendall Stephens contributed immensely to this total, making three of three from outside: one uncontested, two over the head of a lunging Alex Dragicevich.

Three of Purdue’s first-half 3-pointers came within roughly three minutes of one another, between the 10:22 and 13:25 marks. Prior to the shooting spree, BC had been tied with Purdue, 20-20, but after the barrage from the perimeter-ending with a shot from the corner by forward Basil Smotherman-the Boilermakers led the Eagles by 10 points, 31-21.

While skillful 3-point shooting enabled Purdue to take the lead, a strong offensive presence inside and good mid-range shooting helped the team extend it to a whopping 21 points. The Johnson brothers, Purdue’s starting guards, performed especially well in these areas, generating most of their points off of layups and mid-range jumpers. By game’s end, Ronnie Johnson had 15 total points-with five from free throws, after drawing fouls-and Terone Johnson scored 18, leading all other players.

Through the contest, the Boilmakers’ offense was steady and prolific. BC’s offense, on the other hand, was highly sporadic, with the team unable to mount a solid run.

Turnovers played a major role in the stifling of BC’s offense. In the first half, the team lost possession of the ball nine times-seven more times than Purdue. The squad would eventually remedy the situation, losing control of the ball two fewer times than Purdue in the second half, but would be confronted with a new challenge: the play of the opposing center and forwards.

While Purdue’s big men struggled against BC early in the game-the Boilermakers were outrebounded both defensively (16-13) and offensively (9-6) in the first 20 minutes of play-the players dominated in the second half, preventing the Eagles from establishing themselves inside and drawing plenty of second chance opportunities for their teammates. At 40 minutes of play, after taking advantage of mismatches in athleticism and height, Purdue had more total rebounds than BC (39-37).

Stephens was quick to praise his teammates, center A.J. Hammons and forward Jay Simpson, for their work: “I think you … have to give credit to Jay and A.J.,” he said. “They did a great job on ball-screen defense … They made Boston College work, and they definitely boxed out, and they came ready to play today-both of them.”

Through the game, BC’s play was disjointed. Purdue seemed to have an answer for each move and maneuver-the few positive aspects of the Eagles’ play. One instance that captured this futility occurred with approximately 17 minutes remaining in the second half when Dragicevich stole the ball from Purdue guard Raphael Davis, only to lose possession in a scramble seconds later. Straddling the baseline, Ronnie Johnson would score with the recovered ball, extending the Boilermakers’ lead to 19.

In spite of BC’s inability to outscore the opposition or keep the game close, several individual players had noteworthy, albeit often streaky, performances.

Early in the game, Dragicevich evidenced the shooting prowess for which he was praised at Notre Dame, making three of his first five 3-pointers. He would not score after the first half, though.

Olivier Hanlan struggled in the beginning, making only one of his first seven shots, but the sophomore guard overcame the rut, scoring in five of the following six attempts. After performing well in the second half, Hanlan finished the game six of 15 from the field, with 15 points total.

Ryan Anderson’s performance was among the most consistent. He scored 16 points to lead the squad, shooting four of seven from the field. At the beginning of the game, the junior forward seemed unstoppable, accounting for six of the team’s first eight points. Beyond those first few minutes, through the contest, he was able to draw fouls, and gained eight points off free throws.

In the end, the BC squad was unable to follow head coach Steve Donahue’s general game plan, as stated in an interview following the Eagles’ victory over the Washington Huskies in the 2K Classic: “We’ve got to be gritty enough to keep them off the glass,” he said. “We’ve got to be tough enough to not turn the ball over, and then we’ve got to step up and make shots.”

Purdue, on the other hand, did exactly that-scoring, rebounding, and keeping ball control-and the results were captured in the final score.

“Well … we’re hoping to dominate in … rebounding or taking care of the ball,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter. “Tonight, we outrebounded them by two, and we had five fewer turnovers, so  …  those are the areas we really focus on. We had good balance tonight. We had a lot of guys contribute-just … carrying out their [assignments]. [We did] what we were supposed to do, [and] our percentages went way up.”