ACC men’s basketball is something special.
It seems like on any given day, any team in this conference—the best in the country—can pull off an upset. That is, except for the ugly duckling of the ACC: Boston College.
On a day that featured multiple conference upsets (Clemson over No. 8 Miami, Notre Dame over No. 9 Duke), the stage seemed set for underdog BC (7-10, 0-4 Atlantic Coast) to steal the show on the road against No. 20 University of Pittsburgh (15-2, 4-1). But the Panthers spoiled a career day from Eli Carter, who finished with 31 points and four steals, and crushed any hopes of an upset in a convincing 84-61 victory.
The Eagles quieted the “Oakland Zoo” out of the gate, as Carter scored the game’s first five points to help BC jump out to an early 10-2 lead. But for every Carter layup or deep jumper in the first half, Pitt found an answer in forward Jamel Artis.
Artis fired off seven straight points for the Panthers to fuel a 15-2 run and erase the Eagles’ early advantage. Normally, this type of stretch would have knocked out this young BC squad, or at least left it stunned and confused (see: at Syracuse). This time, however, Carter kept the team afloat.
The graduate transfer guard exploded for five 3-pointers—many of them from way, way downtown—and finished 11-for-22 from the field overall. As good as Artis was, Carter was better. He led the Eagles on the break, feeding big men in transition or taking it himself for acrobatic finishes. He drained 30-footers with ease, keeping BC within single digits for most of the game with little help from his teammates. Not to mention, he racked up 37 minutes and showed little signs of fatigue down the stretch.
Quite simply, Pitt was just deeper.
Coming off of a loss against No. 21 Louisville in which the Panthers mustered only 14 buckets, they responded Saturday with a 58 percent shooting performance that included 33 made baskets. With four players in double figures, they shared the ball well, logging 23 assists to BC’s nine. They created shots through ball movement, not by dribbling.
Artis had help from fellow forward Michael Young, who finished with 13 points and led all players with nine assists. Point guard James Robinson added 10 points, including a couple of clutch 3-pointers that extended Pitt’s seven-point halftime lead out of reach. But the surprise of the afternoon for the Panthers was freshman guard Cameron Johnson, who emerged from the bench to sink four treys and total 20 points. The BC bench finished with six points, each courtesy of backup center Idy Diallo.
Pitt had help—and lots of it. The bench alone scored 33 points. So where was the help for Carter?
Many have hopes that the answer could lie in freshman guard Jerome Robinson, who has impressed this season with averages of 11 points and three assists. But Robinson was virtually nonexistent against the Panthers, tallying a mere five points and two costly turnovers.
Fifth-year center Dennis Clifford chipped in with 12 points and six boards to cap off a solid afternoon. But it seemed as if every time the Eagles needed a big stop, Clifford—the anchor of the defense—and the rest of BC couldn’t force a Pitt miss. They could only do so much, though, as the Panthers had the hot hand from beyond the arc, finishing 10-of-19 from downtown.
The loss drops the Eagles into second-to-last place in the ACC, with North Carolina State University joining them at the bottom. Pitt, on the other hand, is one of only a few one-loss teams remaining as it tries to establish itself as one of the ACC’s elite programs.
With Carter’s incredible outing, BC played a very strong Panther team close for most of the game, and head coach Jim Christian has few reasons to be upset after the loss. But there is something that should be very troubling to Eagle fans everywhere.
Chew on this stat for awhile: On Saturday, BC scored only 18 points from players who will be returning next year. And by no means is this team senior-heavy at all. The future is very, very frightening for BC men’s basketball.
Featured Image by Keith Srakokic / AP Photo