BROOKLYN, N.Y.—The ACC-A10 Doubleheader at Barclays Center might not have been must-see Winter Break entertainment, but it marked what could be a crucial turning point for Boston College men’s basketball at the end of 2015.
The Eagles (6-6) battled for a hard-fought victory against pesky Fordham University (9-2) for a 64-55 victory in the second game of the doubleheader. BC avoided a sweep of the ACC after St. Joseph’s University defeated Virginia Tech in the first game. The Eagles turned in a stellar defensive performance, converted down the stretch, and received major contributions from some unlikely sources. Plus, at the end of the game, a perennial fan favorite received some excellent news.
Steve’s Squad – BC senior and bench mob captain Steve Perpiglia isn’t used to seeing much of the floor for the Eagles, but he got the star treatment Tuesday afternoon.
When BC took the floor for pregame warmups, a large contingent of BC supporters stood up and cheered wildly, holding cutouts of Perpiglia’s face and signs with his last name written in bold. Whenever Perpiglia made a shot that he took in warmups, his fan section cheered wildly—on the off chance that he missed, they booed him in jest.
Until the last minute of the game, those warmups were the last time that fans in attendance noticed Perpiglia’s rabid supporters. He checked in for a token appearance once the Eagles put the game out of reach, officially logging “0+” minutes in the official box score. Despite the fact that he didn’t clock enough time in the game to register any meaningful statistic, Tuesday’s game is sure to be one of the most memorable from Perpiglia’s BC career.
Following the conclusion of the game against Fordham, Perpiglia found out from head coach Jim Christian that he had been placed on scholarship for the spring semester, his final one at BC. Now that’s something to cheer about.
Idy’s Big Break – When BC center Dennis Clifford got into foul trouble early in the game, Christian turned to Idy Diallo to man the paint. With fellow first-year player Johncarlos Reyes out indefinitely with a foot injury, Diallo was the only remaining center on the roster, so playing time would be easy to come by, for at least one afternoon.
Diallo didn’t disappoint—he turned in his best game as an Eagle.
The 6-foot-11 center from California scored eight points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the floor, but his most impressive contributions came on the defensive end. Diallo was tasked with guarding the paint and defending the post, a duty he completed with flying colors.
“Diallo was probably the key to the game,” Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer said following the loss. “He really did a terrific job defending the post.”
Prior to Tuesday’s matinee against Fordham, Diallo had shown an impressive knack for fouling out very fast—his record is just six minutes, which he accomplished earlier this year against Harvard University. Today, though, with his teammate in foul trouble, Diallo defended the paint brilliantly and only racked up a single foul on the game.
Smothering D – Diallo set the tone for BC on defense, but he wasn’t the only Eagle who excelled on the defensive end against Fordham. The entire team turned in what Christian called his team’s best defensive performance of the season.
“Our defense was phenomenal tonight,” Christian said. “It was [great] for 40 minutes, which we have not done, so that was a huge improvement.”
The Rams are no slouches on offense—they convert 3-pointers at a clip that ranks 18th-best in the country—but the Eagles shut them down on Tuesday. Fordham shot only 32.1 percent from the field overall, which was actually lower than its 3-point percentage of 33.3 percent. Fordham struggled mightily in the first half to connect on its shots, converting only a quarter of its 28 attempts.
Poor Long-Distance Connection – BC is usually a team that lives and dies by the 3-pointer—if its shots from beyond the arc are connecting, the team is usually in a good position to win. Against Fordham, however, the Eagles uncharacteristically struggled from deep, hitting only three of their 18 shots from behind the line. Ervins Meznieks, Jerome Robinson, Garland Owens, Matt Milon, and Darryl Hicks combined to go scoreless from 3-point range on 10 attempts.
For the first time in a victory this season, the Eagles had to find ways to score other than from behind the 3-point line. Turning a negative into a positive, the Eagles dominated the paint against the Rams, outscoring their opponent by a 14-point margin.
Running Afoul – Though Diallo did an exceptional job in his role on Tuesday, he was only put in that position because Clifford committed three fouls by the first minute of the second half. With such a short bench in the frontcourt, Clifford can’t afford to get into foul trouble, because he needs to play big minutes for Christian.
If Diallo could perform at Tuesday’s level for the remainder of the season, it would take significant pressure off of Clifford’s shoulders to be the main frontcourt presence for the Eagles. Diallo has yet to prove he can produce at a consistent level, so until he does, the fifth-year senior will be tasked with taking the lion’s share of minutes at center for BC.
Carter’s Consistency Woes – BC’s leading scorer had an off night, and while it didn’t matter on the scoreboard, the Eagles initially found difficulty getting scoring from other sources in the opening minutes. Carter ultimately finished with 12 points on 2-of-9 shooting, with seven of his points coming from free throws.
The Eagles shot poorly as a team, but Carter has been the motor that keeps the machine running through the first portion of BC’s 2015-16 schedule. When he’s on, he draws more defensive attention, which frees up BC’s supporting cast to take more confident shots with open looks. It was impressive that the Eagles found a way to win when their top scorer had an off night—and BC can largely thank Robinson for that—but the team will be in a better position going forward if Carter can return to form and shoot at an efficient level.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor