Most of the season, finding three positives and three negatives in a BC basketball game has been pretty easy. That was not really the case last night when the Eagles played pretty much toe to toe with the #2 Virginia Cavaliers before winding up on the short end of a deceiving 66-51 outcome.
It wasn't as if there were things the Eagles could have done better that would have impacted the margin if not the outcome, but I would argue that yesterday's loss was more a case of being matched against better talent and better athletes than what BC has the capability of putting on the floor. Those factors as much or more so than the ones we will talk about below were the most critical factors in sending BC to 0-4 in ACC play.
Coaching strategy and approach:
I am sorry for those of you who want to complain about what the coaching staff may or may not be doing, but yesterday shouldn't be one of those days. Simply watching live as the two teams went up and down the floor, BC was by far the less talented, less athletic team and although the Cavaliers not only won the game, but covered the spread, this was a far more competitive contest than it should have been and coaching strategy, whether it was successful or not played a part of it.
BC was well prepared to attack the Pack Line defense and for large stretches of the game, got shots at the rim, pretty much unheard of in Hoo-ville. Much of that was attributed to the dribble handoff and high post screening action which differed somewhat from what we had seen in earlier games this year. Also, it was clear that the players were told to take that one extra dribble to get all the way to the rim and it produced results.
They also were willing to reverse the ball quickly against the defensive help coming off those ball screens and these opened up some of what a dribble drive offense would call double gaps, allowing massive driving lanes.
BC spent most of the game in the mid to upper 40s FG percentage wise (finished at 39%) against a team giving up 34%.
Defensively, we saw a little token 2-1-1 pressure that retreated into a 2-3 zone and then went to man on the first pass. This definitely took Virginia by surprise and slowed their ability to get into their offense. Unfortunately, in two of those three possessions, the Eagles were unable to finish the sequence with a stop. BC still held a team that was in the top 20 in the nation in FG% offense, to just 42% from the floor.
Enigmatic, inconsistent, mercurial, there were a lot and have been a lot of descriptions over the past 3 1/2 years describing his play, but yesterday, particularly during the early part of the second half, he was the confident, aggressive and smart Heckmann. He took advantage of being guarded by bigger players on the perimeter and used ball fakes as well as Virginia's own tendencies to hard close out to get to the basket and score. 15 points on 6-11 shooting, strong game.
Free Throws and Turnovers:
The Eagles converted 12 of 13 from the free throw line as well as committing only nine turnovers for the game. Seven of those makes came in the final eight minutes of the game at a time when BC was struggling to score from the floor, so very critical to maintaining contact in the game. The turnovers, although good, may be somewhat of a misleading statistic, as Virginia forces only just under 10 per game and BCs assist to turnover ratio on the year is at 0.94 Yesterday, 8 assists to 9 turnovers, so on a per possession basis, about average.
Nowhere else did the game turn as much as on the boards for BC. The Cavaliers owned a 35-20 edge in total including 13-4 on the offensive glass. Consider that the UVA got 13 offensive, while BC only 16 defensive rebounds, meaning that over 44% of opportunities to get a rebound, went to the Cavaliers. Those numbers are more akin to what you would see in a mediocre high school game than something at the ACC level. No Eagle player registered more than three and those turned into a 10-2 advantage in second chance points as well as inflating what would have been a really poor day shooting from the floor for Virginia.
Virginia was definitely not spot on defensively for large stretches of the game and although BC went through that long 7 minute stretch of the second half without scoring from the floor, it was really more a product of opportunities that need to be converted against a team of UVA's stature to win. The Eagles didn't get a lot of FGs off, shooting a season low 43 in total, but in a game that was still at a 5 point margin with 5:04 left to go, missing several point blank layups, which you are not likely to get against Virginia, was costly. Also, BC had chances to fast break off misses or the few turnovers they were able to force. I felt that getting some easy baskets was going to be a key in this game and the Eagles officially were credited with zero transition points.
Batten and Brown:
Although I think both of them worked pretty hard on the defensive end of the floor, both with very difficult matchups, 1-11 from the floor for a total of six points for a tandem that came in to the game averaging over 21 between them, simply wasn't going to get it done. Batten expended a lot of energy covering Justin Anderson who didn't score from the floor, but after making the first basket of the game, was invisible. Brown on the other hand took four of his six shots from three, missing all of them. All but one were clean looks and certainly would have helped the cause.
I am not sure that against a team of this caliber, Boston College can play much better than they did today. Yes, Brown and Batten scoring would have helped, but without a post presence to play through, which really isn't even worth bringing up anymore at this point, the Eagles did about as well as they could have.
It was interesting in that BC looked against Virginia, how Harvard had looked against BC. Just a step too slow and a few inches too small to get it done at a level a notch above where they currently are.