Despite a bright and energetic start to the game, the Boston College basketball team stumbled in the second half and lost 75-71 on Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum. The defeat snaps BC's modest win streak and knocks the Eagles down to 6-4 on the year. With the victory, the Trojans are now 7-4.
The first half was one of BC's best offensive stretches of the season so far, putting up 41 points to carry a 41-37 lead into the locker room. BC shot 46.7% from the field and had multiple players get in on the offense, with Aaron Brown, Patrick Heckmann, Will Magarity and Dennis Clifford all scoring 7+ points in the first half.
Unfortunately, the Eagles' defense did not keep up with the offensive effort, allowing USC to stay in the game. The Trojans shot 69.6% from the field, including 4-for-6 from behind the arc—hot enough to keep USC close despite the fact that BC generally carried play.
"A lot of [those shots] were tough shots, but ones that we could have avoided," said Aaron Brown after the game. "They started making a few hard shots in the beginning, then they had momentum."
As tends to happen, USC pounced on the opportunity, tightening up and shutting down the Eagles' offense in the second half. BC went cold, scoring just 22 points in the second half, and though the game was always relatively close, the Eagles never really felt like they were going to get over the hump and win once USC took the lead for good with 17 minutes left to play in the game.
A long stretch of futility did BC in during this stretch, scoring just three points in nearly 7 minutes of game time. Heckmann made a layup that put BC up 45-41 with 18:28 to play. With 11:46 left, it was an Olivier Hanlan three that broke the long dry spell, but by that point it was 55-51 Trojans.
"They beat us to loose balls, they out-hustled us...that hadn't happened to us yet [this year]," said Jim Christian postgame when asked about the dry spell. "It's disappointing that we picked this night to do it. We had way too many guys dwelling on a missed shot. We never got into a good rhythm."
Despite that three pointer at 11:46, it was definitely not Hanlan's day overall. He went 6-for-21 from the field and 1-for-8 from three; 15 points and a team-leading 8 assists look good on paper but he'll surely be rueing missed opportunities to take better shots.
Aaron Brown was impressive again for BC, leading the team with 18 points. Dennis Clifford looked really strong in the first half but faded a bit in the second, ending with 9 points and 9 rebounds on the day.
Lonnie Jackson continued his return from injury with 10 minutes of playing time, but failed to score, going 0-for-2 from the field.
"It's on everybody. I don't think anybody on the team played well today. I don't think I coached well today," said Christian. "We let them get comfortable early. If you do that, then the tougher shots get a little easier...We gotta be better."
This was a tough setback for BC against a not-very-good USC team. On paper, this was a game they had a good chance of winning at home—and on the court, the game proved to be entirely winnable. But they just couldn't quite get there. The work goes on for BC as they look to bounce back next Monday, December 29 against UMass-Lowell.