Second Half Surge Carries Eagles Past Albany

Boston College men’s basketball picked up a win for the ages in a one-point victory over Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday. The win marked the Eagles’ first win against the Irish since 2004 and ended what had been a frustrating four-game losing spell for Jim Christian’s squad. 

The Eagles (6-5, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) looked to bring some of the momentum generated from that win back with them to Conte Forum in their matchup against Albany (5-6, 0-0 American East) on Tuesday. 

BC represented the biggest test in Albany’s schedule thus far, but the Great Danes had every reason to enter the game with confidence, as the Eagles had only managed to come away victorious in three of their first seven home games. Despite sloppy play from both sides to begin the contest, the Eagles found their rhythm in the second half, carrying them to a comfortable 72-51 win.

Early in the game, BC teetered on the edge of falling back into the mediocre play that had carried the team to a disappointing 5-5 start to the season. The Eagles made just three of their first 10 shots and seemed at times unable to find the basket despite good looks at the rim. The two teams traded baskets for much of the first half, resulting in five lead changes before the halftime buzzer.

After starting point guard Derryck Thornton was forced to sit early in the game after picking up two fouls, the Eagles’ offense began to suffer. BC was also playing without senior forward Nik Popovic, who continues to sit out nursing a back injury, which kept him out of Saturday’s game as well. 

Despite missing Popovic, who averages over five rebounds a game, the Eagles were still able to make up for missed shots in the first half with strong work on the glass. Steffon Mitchell, as is often the case, led the Eagles in boards. He grabbed seven rebounds—including an impressive five offensive boards—in the opening frame alone. Mitchell went on to finish with a game-high 13 rebounds. Guards Jay Heath and Jared Hamilton also added four and three first-half rebounds respectively.

BC ended the first half with woeful shooting numbers. The Eagles shot just 31 percent from the field, including 22 percent from behind the arc. They also struggled at the foul line—shooting connecting on just 46 percent—a category that has been a consistent issue for the team this season. Despite these numbers, BC only trailed by one at the break, with the score tight at 31-30.

The Eagles were clearly not satisfied with their first-half performance and showed impressive resilience coming out of the break. In the second half, the Eagles looked like a brand new team, and their efforts showed on the scoreboard.

BC locked in on the defensive end, forcing 12 turnovers and effectively slowing down Albany’s powerful backcourt, led by sophomore Cameron Healy and senior Ahmad Clark. Healy and Clark led the Great Danes in scoring—with 13 and 11 points, respectively—but both ended the game well below their season averages. Mitchell led the Eagles on defense with five steals, followed by Heath with three. 

BC’s offense also found its groove in the second half. The Eagles went on a 25-9 run to open the half, and Albany couldn’t seem to find an answer to BC’s scoring burst. Heath hit two big 3-pointers early in the frame, and the Eagles never looked back. 

BC finished with four players in double figures in the scoring column. Jared Hamilton led the team with 16 points to Mitchell’s 15. Jay Heath tallied 11 while freshman sharpshooter Julian Rishwain matched that number, including sinking 3-of-5 shots from behind the arc.

The Eagles displayed impressive fortitude late in the second half, continuing their strong play despite starters Thornton and CJ Felder sitting with foul trouble. In the end, BC’s play proved too much for Albany, and a commanding second half helped the team overcome its first half woes en route to a 21-point victory. 

Looking forward, BC has only two games in the next three weeks before beginning conference play in a tough matchup against Duke on New Year’s Eve. Jim Christian’s squad is sure to take the next few contests one game at a time, as picking up wins now can prove invaluable as the grueling months of ACC play loom in the distance.

Featured Image by Kait Devir / Heights Staff