For the Boston College men’s basketball team, the forward marches and attacks are long and glorious, but only temporary.
The back-and-forth nature of the season has been approximately 75 percent attack and 25 percent retreat, meaning the Eagles will battle with the best for the majority of the game, only to falter against the final push of the opponent. Things were no different against No. 10 Louisville, as BC stuck around for a long while until falling late to the Cardinals, 81-72.
While head coach Jim Christian and the Eagles have focused on the defensive side of the ball for much of the season and Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are noted for their swarming press and attack-minded defense, the match up on Wednesday night snowballed into a shot-for-shot contest. A plethora of 3-pointers, and-ones, and other flourishes of brilliance from BC were all matched on the other end. Early on, the Eagles did a tremendous job of breaking Louisville’s vaunted press.
Two Louisville players in particular—Chris Jones and Terry Rozier—crushed any hopes of a BC breakthrough all night.
“Jones and Rozier have been spectacular,” Pitino said after the game. “They’re in a class by themselves. They’re playing great basketball and doing it in the clutch, and the most impressive thing is how many minutes they play.”
Feeding off each other the whole game, the two guards played 37 and 38 minutes, respectively, but the quickness was still there in each step, even down the stretch. The tandem combined for an incredible 67.8 shooting percentage, including five-of-seven from 3-point range. Jones finished the night with 28 points, with Rozier right behind him at 23.
“I’ve never seen two guards play the amount of minutes they play with the amount of intensity they play for an entire game,” Christian said. “It’s really special to watch.”
While the game was close until the very end, it was tied only twice, and the lead never changed from the hands of the Cardinals into BC’s pocket.
From the start, just as they did against the University of Virginia, the Eagles played well behind the likes of guards Aaron Brown and Olivier Hanlan, who were supported by the role players Patrick Heckmann and Will Magarity.
This time, however, Hanlan went from field general to second-in-command, handing the scoring touch over to Brown while he provided the boost from behind. While he only finished with 11 points, he matched a season-high with nine assists.
The fifth-year guard, on the other hand, shot a remarkable five-of-12 from long-distance, finishing with a season-high 28 points.
Magarity, tasked with fending off the monstrous duo of Montrezl Harrell and Mangok Mathiang, produced one of his best games of the season as well, even if the stat line only shows nine points and six boards. Coming up with a big 3-pointer early on, the Swede’s ability to stretch the floor and shoot the ball forced Louisville out to the perimeter on defense.
BC threw everything it could at the Cardinals, including a brand new zone defense that was only introduced in a walk-through on Monday. The unconventional 3-2 zone worked to negate the flexible zone offense that looks to stretch the defense out. Having three guards on top rather than two prevents the ball from getting into the lanes and alleys. Only briefly did the Eagles resort to man-to -man midway through the second half.
The system change on D, and all the other little things that BC does to make it a tough opponent, could not stop the red-hot Cardinals, though. Louisville finished the game shooting 58 percent from the field, and even one of BC’s best offensive games couldn’t match that type of output.
Despite the numerous key stops that the Eagles came up with, they were more than a few steals or defensive rebounds away from going ahead. In the end, this game turned out to be BC’s worse defensive display based on opponent’s shooting percentage, with some of that being caused by breakdowns and some by the lights-out shooting from the Cardinals.
After Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said that BC was the toughest prep his team had all year, Pitino agreed after watching six tapes of the Eagles. Even though a lot of focus was put on Christian’s new-look defense in the game, Pitino was full of praise for BC’s offense.
“BC’s offensive schemes are off the charts,” Pitino said. “They do things that great teams don’t do, and they are a nightmare to guard. Fortunately for us, we play great offense also.”
For all the firepower and defensive strategy that BC brought to the court, the Cardinals out-maneuvered the Eagles every time. Matching the Eagles blow-for-blow, Louisville’s dynamic offense spearheaded by Jones and Rozier and bolstered by Mathiang and Harrell proved too deadly for Christian’s team.
The fatal wounds came in the form of two daggers from Jones from behind the arc. With five minutes left, Hanlan missed a game-tying free throw, and in the next two minutes, Jones buried two 3-pointers.The rest of the game followed much like the Virginia game. BC slipped as Louisville took control. When Hanlan fouled out, the Eagles could not come back.
For all the Napoleon-esque warfare that BC wages against far superior opponents, the Eagles will eventually march into Russia and then meet their Waterloo, falling victim to the larger armies of UVA and Louisville.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor