There have certainly been more exciting games than the one played between the Boston College Eagles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday at Conte Forum. It was a closely contested game throughout, but Notre Dame pulled through at the end and captured a 73-69 win.
Olivier Hanlan led the Eagles with 18 points while Ryan Anderson added 11 points and 11 rebounds. Patrick Heckmann dropped X quick points at the end of the game as BC tried to comeback, but it just wasn't enough.
Two members of the Fighting Irish played all 20 minutes in the first half. Pat Connaughton led the way with 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting. Eric Atkins was the other guy that never sat for Notre Dame in the first 20 minutes. He's normally the Irish's leading scorer, pouring in 14 per game, but he was held scoreless for the first 8 minutes or so in this one. At halftime, those two players combined for 19 points-- exactly half of ND's 38 points. Connaughton finished with 17 points on 7 of 14 hooting while Atkins had 16 points of his own.
Connaughton went to St. John's Prep and is from Arlington, Massachusetts. He received an incredibly loud ovation when he was introduced and I assume that most of Sunday night's sold-out crowd was due to him and his Notre Dame teammate, Zach Auguste. Auguste is from Marlborough, MA. It was an oddly quiet crowd, despite the fact that most of the seats were full. I guess that's what happens when you have a game at 6 PM on a Sunday night?
This Boston College team has had two main problems all year long: rebounding and defense. Yeah, those two things are a huge part of the game of basketball, so it's no surprise that the Eagles are 6-19 so far.
According to KenPom.com, BC has the 23rd ranked adjusted offensive efficiency in the country. That's really really good. Unfortunately, they also have the 319th ranked adjusted defensive efficiency. That's really really bad. When you combine that with the 2nd hardest schedule in the country, this is what you get.
As expected, defense was once again a problem for the Eagles. The offense was chugging along, the ball was moving well, and the turnovers weren't out of control. But the defense...dude. It was bad to start the year and it's still bad. Guys are a step slow, nobody stops the ball in the open court, and there's virtually zero resistance at the rim. Notre Dame isn't an exceptionally athletic team, but BC still had trouble stopping them. Sigh.
Notre Dame grabbed two key offensive rebounds for Notre Dame later in the first half. The Eagles played solid defense on both shot clocks, but then the Irish got a board that fell right into their laps under the basket to make it 35-29. Up to that point, the Eagles actually had the advantage when it came to offensive rebounds. It's been a problem all yeah, but in the first half, the Eagles were the ones getting all of the second chance opportunities.
The Fighting Irish controlled the game for much of the first part of the second half. They went on a 10-2 run and opened up a 57-48 lead with about 9:30 left. It was one of those moments where you figure the next few possessions could decide the game. If BC was unable to respond, the lead would balloon and the game would be out of reach. But the Eagles fought back and kept themselves in the game. Olivier Hanlan started to be more aggressive and that's almost always a good thing. BC went on a quick 5-0 of their own and made it a 57-53 game.
Boston College hung around for the rest of the game, but were never able to get the stops that they needed to close the gap. Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan didn't get much help from the refs on some of their drives to the basket, but that's basketball. This game really just came down to one team executing when they needed to and one team that couldn't put a solid run together. As much as BC fans want to blame the defense, you have to give some credit to Notre Dame. They hit tough shots and made better plays -- alas.
Quick note on Hanlan:
He really needs to be more aggressive pretty much all the time and especially against a team like Notre Dame. The Irish don't have many particularly athletic wing defenders and nobody showed much ability to stay in front of Hanlan when he decides to attack. You can tell that Hanlan struggles with this at times. He clearly wants to get his teammates involved, but has to remember to take charge at the same time. Of course, he's a young player and will continue to grow more comfortable with what he's capable of and what his teammates are capable of as he plays more basketball. I hope to speak with Hanlan at some point this week and will have a feature on him once I do that interview.
Dana Barros was at this game. They honored him at some point in the first half. That was neat. Unfortunately, he can't play for BC anymore.
Rest in peace, Dick Kelley
There was a nice little tribute to Dick Kelley before the game. It's remarkable just how many people Dick was able to positively impact at BC while he was here. We really did lose one of the best Eagles we've ever had.
BC's next game is against the undefeated #1 Syracuse Orange on Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome. That would be a cool win.