Jim Christian lamented his team’s inability to focus on both sides of the ball against the 1-7 Maine Black Bears.
“That was probably the best 40 minutes of offense that we’ve played, and the worst 40 minutes of defense that we’ve played,” he said.
Eight games into the season, one word can sum up Christian’s team: inconsistent.
Against their toughest opponent, the Providence Friars, the Eagles dazzled and fired on all cylinders, but against weaker teams, like UNH and Maine, BC just squeaked by for a win.
In their second game of the year, the Eagles found themselves ahead of Massachusetts at the half, only to succumb to the Minutemen’s suffocating defense in final 20 minutes.
The Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament featured much of the same. BC captured a quality victory over New Mexico to start the tournament, but could not sustain that form. In its ensuing games against West Virginia and Dayton, BC started off strong only to be overcome down the stretch.
Losses to UMass, WVU, and Dayton—one of last March’s Cinderella stories —are not terrible, but to lose those games after strong starts leaves much to be desired.
The tides appeared to turn after taking down the Friars, but BC regressed ever so slightly despite their 85-74 victory over the Black Bears.
Without looking at the scoreboard, the low level of play against Maine produced many red flags, as the Eagles could not carry the momentum and intensity from the PC upset into this week. A win is a win, but the lack of defensive fortitude is a major concern.
Rustiness on offense is expected for every team at the start of a season. Players and coaches should know that patience is necessary before they start hitting mid-season form with their jumpers. Defense, however, needs to be present from the very beginning.
In less than a week, BC churned out a victory over Providence that featured lock-down D, but then flipped the script only six days later, struggling to stop the Black Bears’ offense the entire game.
“From our perspective, we have to play with more defensive energy to do the things we want to do,” Christian said.
Pat Heckmann, whose grittiness and intelligence have come to define this team, is a prime example of BC’s inconsistency.
Going back to that Providence game, Heckmann shined on the defensive side, shutting down PC’s leading scorer, LaDontae Henton, all night long. Yet, against Maine, Heckmann committed silly fouls and did a poor job on the boards, allowing Maine to receive too many offensive rebounds. Christian continually had to bench Heckmann—his best defender—spending the majority of one huddle talking to the German forward about his mistakes.
Heckmann and the defense were simply unable to finish off Maine, despite coming close on many occasions. Olivier Hanlan, in a signature acrobatic drive to the hoop, got the lead up to 15 at one point, but holes on defense allowed the Black Bears to stay within fighting distance of the Eagles.
Even with the game seemingly in hand, the key defensive stops did not come.
Aaron Brown would roar ahead for fast break dunks, but the Black Bears would answer with a three. Dennis Clifford—in his best offensive game of the season—would outwork two defenders for the basket, but then would allow an easy layup two plays later.
“At the end, we weren’t on point defensively,” Brown said.
Clifford’s season high 19 points and Brown’s continued offensive production and leadership—the only bright spots from the game—powered BC to victory. This cannot be overlooked, as the Eagles showed a key ability to win games without Hanlan at the helm.
Bigger questions, however, need to be asked, especially with the ACC schedule right around the corner. Can this team put everything together when conference play rolls around? Or is a sloppy win against Maine a sign that inconsistency will mar this team for the rest season?
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff