It seems like the same narrative every game: it wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.
But the reality is the results change each time. And each time, a different concern arises for coach Jim Christian and the Boston College men’s basketball team. On Thursday, BC showed an inability to lockdown Maine defensively, allowing many easy looks for a mediocre Black Bears attack. Sunday afternoon, BC (6-3) turned in a considerably better defensive performance in its first ever game against the Binghamton Bearcats (1-11). Consistency between halves, however, as well as some offensive inefficiency, plagued the Eagles in its 63-49 victory over their America East foe.
BC opened the game red hot on defense against a pitiful Bearcats offense, which currently ranks in the bottom 30 in the country in field goal percentage, points per game, and assists per game. The Eagles locked down Binghamton from the field, holding the Bearcats to merely six-of-24 shooting. Their defensive prowess extended beyond preventing shots, as BC forced 12 turnovers.
“We came out kind of flat in the first five or six minutes, and then after that for a four-minute period, but then we picked it up, pressured a bit, that’s when they started to turn over the ball a lot more so we got some easy offense,” said junior guard Olivier Hanlan after the game.
The Eagles used this pressure to their advantage, outscoring Binghamton 16-2 on turnovers. This produced several highlight-reel plays, including a beautiful alley oop lobbed up by Aaron Brown and slammed down by Garland Owens.
Brown and Dimitri Batten led the charge for the Eagles in much of the first half, as Hanlan appeared lost. The star junior point guard finished the half with only two points—most notably, Hanlan uncharacteristically produced fouls on back-to-back possessions, resulting in an immediate trip to the bench.
Batten, however, provided a much needed spark for the Eagles’ offensive attack, punctuating the first half with a steal and easy layup with six seconds remaining. Christian certainly recognized his senior’s excellent game today. “You have to get different guys to lift your energy level up, and I thought Dimitri Batten did a great job of that the whole game,” Christian said.
Batten’s layup represented BC’s attack all throughout the early parts of the game. Binghamton’s players seemed more focused on their holiday breaks than on guarding the Eagles, allowing plenty of wide-open looks. Although BC scored 10 fast break points in the first half alone, the team failed to convert on many of these clear opportunities, especially when underneath the basket. As long as BC kept forcing turnovers at a high level as it seemed to do, this did not seem like a problem.
The tides quickly changed for the Eagles, however, as their energy level greatly diminished in the second half. “That was the one thing that troubled me today,” Christian said. “We didn’t have enough guys who tried to lift us up emotionally.”
BC stopped forcing turnovers and, as a result, Binghamton matched the Eagles’ 31 second half points. The Eagles stopped scoring on the fast break, getting only four such points in the second half. Not only did the Eagles’ production come up short, their heart lacked. The team looked lackadaisical, fouling a whopping 19 times and sending the Bearcats to the line at an alarming rate. Binghamton was able to convert 21-of-24 from the charity stripe, negating a solid defensive job by the Eagles—BC allowed only one-of-11 shots from beyond the arc in the second half.
“I thought in the second half. we did a really poor job both offensively and defensively,” said Christian. “We turned the ball over too many times, we gave up way too many drives. I think we were playing the scoreboard and not the guys we were playing.”
Such scathing reviews from Christian should put the team on notice to work harder on playing the full 40 minutes, especially with a tough Southern California team coming in next week and ACC play around the corner. Although—as Christian alluded to after the game—some Eagles may have their minds more focused on finals this week, BC must come out ready to fix the team’s issues—and fast.
Yes, the Eagles came away with a victory. Yes, the team had several promising moments—Lonnie Jackson’s first game this season, Batten’s excellent game, and so on. Playing a team with a .083 winning percentage from a small conference, however, should be a lot easier than this game’s results. There will come a point—very soon, in fact—when BC cannot get away with weak second halves.
But one thing you can’t do is take a win away from the team. And the Eagles, after their fourth consecutive victory, are winning the non-conference games that they could not close last year. If they can keep up the effort throughout the entire game, BC should look to, at very least, remain more competitive in the ACC this season.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff