One of the best seasons for Boston College men’s basketball in the past decade has come to an end. After putting together a solid run in the ACC Tournament, the Eagles (19-16, 7-11 Atlantic Coast) were, quite frankly, run out of E. A. Diddle Arena by Western Kentucky (25-10, 14-4 Conference U.S.A.), a team that simply looked as if it had much more of a will to win. That’s not to say the Eagles underestimated the Hilltoppers, but BC looked nothing like the team that showed the resiliency to come back against similar opponents throughout the season. It was perhaps one of the worst performances from head coach Jim Christian’s guys this season, yet there were still a few positive glimpses of what’s poised to come next season.
1) Scrappy Steffon
All season, Steffon Mitchell has made a name for himself outside the stat sheet, and Tuesday night was no different. The freshman finished with two steals and 10 rebounds—six on the offensive end, but his aggression didn’t stop there. On one instance in the third quarter, he poked the ball away from Josh Anderson, and nearly came away with the steal. He was then able to prevent Anderson from regaining possession long enough for the shot clock to dwindle, forcing the Hilltopper guard to heave up a deep prayer that was off the mark.
Again, early in the third quarter, Mitchell was late getting to the paint for a rebound, allowing Taveion Hollingsworth to recover his team’s miss, but Mitchell didn’t give up. The 6-foot-8 forward toyed with Hollingworth just enough for him to lose the ball off his own foot and out of bounds without committing a foul.
To end the third quarter, Mitchell took a charge as well, and then recorded his second steal of the game in the fourth.
2) Locking Down the Glass
Up until the fourth quarter, when the game essentially lost its competitiveness, the Eagles dominated their own defensive glass. WKU finished with six offensive rebounds—as many as Mitchell had himself—and only logged two in the first three quarters. The Hilltoppers shot 61.5 percent in the first half, and had BC not prevented them from getting extra possessions, the final score could have looked even more lopsided. Props to Ky Bowman in this regard, who totaled five rebounds in first half alone.
Still, the few times the Hilltoppers were able to revive a possession, they made BC pay. A second-chance 3-pointer was the game’s dagger, giving the Hilltoppers a 15-point lead with less than eight minutes to play, and their offensive rebounds late in the game allowed them to bleed lots of clock.
3) Crashing the Boards
For the most part, the Eagles got it done on the offensive glass, too. As mentioned, Mitchell did most of the dirty work, getting the majority of his team’s offensive rebounds, but Nik Popovic stood out as well. The sophomore recorded two offensive rebounds, and was able to kick the ball back out a teammate for an open shot on both occasions. BC only had seven assists over the course of the game, and Popovic led with three.
On occasion, the Eagles struggled on the offensive glass this year, mostly because the athletic Bowman is usually stuck on the perimeter during offensive sets. Its 11 second-chance points Tuesday night may have been a sign of things to come. Despite looking sluggish over the course of the game, Mitchell and Co. never seemed afraid to crash the rim after a shot.
1) Shooting Woes
At times, it didn’t seem like the Eagles could count on any single player to run their offense. Jerome Robinson had his fair share of dry spells and shot just 1-for-7 behind the arc. Jordan Chatman missed both of his 3-point attempts and didn’t even have the chance to shoot one in the first half. Bowman, too, looked ugly from deep, making just one of his six 3-point attempts on a last-second bank shot to end the first quarter. And as a big man, Johncarlos Reyes can’t be happy with his 20-percent shooting mark.
Additionally, Ervins Meznieks, who has put in valuable minutes as of late, never even stepped on the floor. One would think that Christian would look to switch things up as his team fell apart, but Reyes was the only non-starter to take a shot during the game.
2) Free Throw Chances
Poor free throw shooting wasn’t the reason BC lost the game. In fact, it missed just one the entire 40 minutes. The problem was, the Eagles rarely got to the charity stripe in the first place. In the first half, BC did not attempt a single free throw, something that has not happened all season.
The combination of WKU’s stout defense and the Eagles’ lack of aggressiveness made for a game that appeared to be poorly officiated, but such a claim is not well backed. The Hilltoppers came into the game as one of the best teams in the nation at keeping its opponents off the free throw line, and BC did nothing to put their discipline to the test. Granted, Mitchell and Popovic are not known for their strong takes to the basket, but it took Bowman a whole 30 minutes to drive to the hoop, and Robinson never drew a foul all game.
3) Bowman’s Ball Security
Plain and simple, Bowman is not an NBA-ready point guard—at least not yet. The sophomore can drive, he can finish, he can break his defender’s ankles, but he cannot read the court at a high enough level. His five turnovers against the Hilltoppers made that clear. Bowman’s biggest blunders were a thrown ball off a defender’s foot on a 2-on-1 drive that should have been an easy two points and another turnover on a pass intended for the corner that sailed out of bounds.
His assist to turnover ratio of 2:5 was the worst its been all season, so perhaps Tuesday night was an outlier. Even still, pro-level scouts watching the game could not have been impressed. Bowman’s mishaps seemed to reflect on the team as a whole because when his own game began to slip away, the Eagles almost looked confused trying to find ways to close the gap.
Featured Image by Frank Franklin II / AP Photo