One year removed from an utterly disastrous 7-25 campaign, Boston College men’s basketball sports a roster with seven new faces, and slightly higher expectations. One game into their 2016-17 season, however, the Eagles (0-1) are already facing a must-win situation—following an overwhelmingly disappointing loss to Nicholls State on Friday night, the Eagles will take on the similarly talented Maryland Eastern Shore (0-2) on Tuesday night.
In their first game, the Eagles were plagued by many of the same issues as last year: turnovers, indecisiveness on offense, and an inability to make crucial defensive stops. They trailed from start to finish. Head coach Jim Christian was forced to constantly shake up the lineups on the floor, as he desperately tried to find a unit that could generate some momentum.
Emerging from Friday night’s disappointment were strong performances by freshman point guard Ty Graves and graduate transfer Jordan Chatman. Graves and Chatman shot 4-for-7 and 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, respectively. They came off of the bench and provided a spark plug that picked up for the struggling starting lineup. Returner A.J. Turner put forth a solid performance as well, tallying 12 points and four assists. Jerome Robinson was up and down for the Eagles—he led the team in scoring with 14 points, but shot just 33 percent from the field.
The Eagles’ opponent, UMES, has battled hard in its two games this season, losing by a combined eight points. While the Hawks are ranked 336th in the nation according to kenpom.com, they play a feisty and high-tempo game. In their first contest, the Hawks fell to a talented George Washington team, 75-71, in Washington, D.C. UMES utilized a press to come all the way back from a 51-33 deficit with 11 minutes remaining in the second half against GW. In their second game, UMES lost to Maryland-Baltimore County, 77-73, in its home opener.
Bakari Copeland has led the way for the Hawks this season, as the 6-foot-6 forward has averaged 17 points and 8.5 rebounds in the first two games. Freshman forward Tyler Jones had a breakout performance against UMBC, with 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting. While the Hawks have had good results on defense with their press, they lack size in their front court. Their tallest player, Isaac Taylor, checks in at 6-foot-8, but is yet to play more than 13 minutes in a game this season.
Three keys to the game:
- How will the Eagles’ guards react to pressure?: The Eagles will rely on two highly touted freshmen to handle the ball this season, in Kyran Bowman and Graves. In their first collegiate appearances, they struggled to take care of the ball and organize the Eagles’ offense. Nicholls State used a full-court press throughout the game, and the Eagles had 16 turnovers. The Eagles were outscored 24-8 on points off turnovers. In UMES’s first game, the Hawks had great success with their full-court press on defense. They forced nine turnovers, and outscored GW 38-24 in the second half after changing up their defense. The Hawks will be sure to take note of Nicholls State’s success with the press, and will apply pressure to BC’s young guards. Christian has touted this team as the fastest he has ever coach, yet it struggled with full-court press defense when Nicholls State sped up the game on Friday. BC must take better care of the ball on Tuesday when it faces pressure, or it will have trouble playing to its greatest strength.
- Cohesiveness on offense: With seven new players making up the Eagles’ rotation, BC looked out of sync on offense for much of its first game. No one looked like they wanted to take over. Many of the Eagles’ shots came at the end of the shot clock, as they struggled to break down Nicholls State’s half-court zone. BC salvaged many poor possessions with 3-pointers, as it shot 9-for-18 from downtown. UMES lacks size with their largest starting player being Taylor, and beyond that no rotational player being taller than 6-foot-7. To compensate for the fact that they are undersized relative to BC, they more than likely will play a zone defense in the half court. This will enable UMES to avoid having their big men matchup one-on-one with players from BC that are larger than them. Against Nicholls State, the Eagles had trouble running their half-court zone offense set effectively. If BC wants to be successful, it must get the ball inside to its big men and, ideally, shoot perimeter shots on kickouts from its forwards. Rather than move the ball back and forth many times around the perimeter, the Eagles’ backcourt needs to make decisive decisions and look to attack against UMES.
- Protect the paint: Entering the season, many people were skeptical about the Eagles’ front court. With 6-foot-6 graduate transfer Connar Tava starting at the four and 6-foot-9 graduate transfer Mo Jeffers starting at the five, it’s no secret that the Eagles lack size relative to the ACC. In their first contest, the Eagles’ big men gave fans more reasoning to be worried. BC looked incredibly vulnerable inside on defense, as Nicholls State had little trouble getting to the basket and scored 42 points in the paint. Tava and Jeffers collectively had seven fouls in the game, and registered no blocks. Christian looked to freshman Nik Popovic to provide a spark off the bench, and despite his 6-foot-11 frame, he looked lost in his first collegiate game. Copeland will be the spark plug down-low for the Hawks, and if BC can limit his touches inside they will have success slowing down the Hawks’ offensive attack.
Featured Image by Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff