Eagles Overcome Slow Start to Down South Florida

After rolling past Wake Forest at home Wednesday, Boston College men’s basketball made its non-conference debut and made a quick trip to Florida on Sunday for a matchup with South Florida. For the first 13 minutes, things were not looking great for the visiting Eagles.

BC fell behind by nine points to the host Bulls, struggling mightily offensively and turning the ball over left and right. But in a demonstration of their resilience, the Eagles reset. They quickly closed the gap behind smarter passing and better defense, going on a relentless 20-4 run in the final six minutes en route to a comfortable 74-60 victory. 

BC (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) was once again paced by graduate point guard Derryck Thornton, who led the team in scoring with 22 points and shot an impressive 8-of-15 from the field against USF (1-1). Steffon Mitchell, who also stuffed the stat sheet for the Eagles in their win over the Demon Deacons, played another great game on Sunday. His complete stat line consisted of six points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots, and two steals. Mitchell’s all-around play—which is to be expected at this point from the junior—provided his team with another gritty performance. 

Bench play was important for the Eagles, as they were playing without starting forward Jairus Hamilton. Two freshman reserves—CJ Felder and Julian Rishwain—provided an enormous boost for BC’s offense. Both players scored in double digits, as Felder had 10 and Rishwain posted 11.

BC and its effective late first-half run provided it with a comfortable 43-32 lead at the end of the first half. Things were not all pretty for the Eagles, though. BC, plagued by turnovers, was down 25-17 with seven minutes left in the half. Early on, the Eagles racked up an unprecedented eight turnovers. In their game against Wake Forest just days earlier, they only had seven turnovers throughout the entire game. 

USF was also dominating on the glass, tallying a total of 10 second-chance points, and controlling the game. They carried most of their momentum on points off turnovers and also shot a comfortable 40 percent from the field. 

For the final seven minutes of the first half, though, it was all BC. Led by hot shooting from Thornton and Nik Popovic, the Eagles surged offensively and was also able to retain their dominance on the boards through the end of the half.By the end of the game, Popovic had tallied eight boards along with Mitchell’s 13. The Eagles also dominated with offensive rebounds and were able to match the larger Bulls in points in the paint.

The Eagles impressed for much of the second half as well. USF did get within seven points after two quick baskets to start the second half. Regardless, with a fast 7-1 BC run, the Eagles’ regained their double-digit lead, which they maintained the rest of the way. BC’s smothering defensive effort was important, especially while playing on the road. The Eagles forced a total of 21 turnovers and limited USF to shooting a lowly 36 percent from the field. In the end, BC went on to win by 14 points.

As a whole, the Eagles should feel good about their victory, and further, their unbeaten start. The offense struggled slightly in the first half on Sunday but still managed to hold off the Bulls. Despite a plethora of early turnovers and poor rebounding at the start, the Eagles did not back down, even while playing on the road. If Thornton can continue leading the way in scoring and the freshman reserves can keep producing, BC will be competitive with most teams. The Eagles will play their next five games at home, and if they can limit turnovers, their balanced offense could cause opponents fits.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor