The Eagles lost contact midway through the second half and never could recover, dropping their 8th straight game to fall to 9-17 overall and 1-13 in the ACC. This was a case of a very good offensive team clicking on all cylinders (Notre Dame) and a team (Boston College) that simply didn't execute defensively the way that was needed to defeat the #10 team in the country.
This is one where you have to ask yourself: how much fight do the Eagles have left in the tank? This team has not quit, but as the body count drops, and the losses, along with the snow, continue to mount, it is just human nature to become disheartened?
Jim Christian and the coaching staff have their hands full, as the season winds down, trying to stay competitive and find a light at the end of a very dark tunnel
Dennis Clifford - The Offensive
Notre Dame is certainly not Virginia when it comes to playing defense. Mike Brey's Irish are generally an uptempo team that beats you by scoring the ball, not necessarily defending it. That should mean there are more open shot attempts and teams simply play looser as the flow of the game is established. That said, this was a breakout game for Dennis Clifford on the offensive side of the floor.
Clifford opened with a free throw line jumper and was effective in all phases of the offensive game, including the face up jump shot from 10-15 feet, offensive rebound put backs, and straight post entries for scores. He finished with 17 points, just two short of a career high on 7-10 shooting. He added four assists and didn't turn the ball over.
BC showed a limited willingness to play through Clifford for the first time this season and there were tangible results. Whether this is something we will see the coaching staff want to expand on, particularly with Pittsburgh being an entirely different beast, will be an interesting subplot.
The Eagles shot a solid 49.1%, their highest mark since shooting 51% in the win against Harvard on January 14 and their best against ACC competition all season. Now as mentioned earlier, Notre Dame's calling card is certainly not on the defensive end, but I thought the Irish put in a solid effort on the defensive end and did a decent job trying to take BC out of their offense (particularly Olivier Hanlan being denied all over the court). And yet the Eagles not only shot at that nearly 50% clip, but also registered assists on 15 of their 28 FGs. Dennis Clifford's ability to produce points in and around the paint was a big difference. Take away his 7-10 and the Eagles are at 44.6% from the field for the game, just slightly above their overall season average.
Brown continues to score for the Eagles and provide at least one consistent, complementary option for Olivier Hanlan. His shooting percentage has been a bit below where you might want it, particularly from beyond the arc and overall jump shooting, but he gets the basket (right hand, right hand, right hand) and has taken more free throws than any other Eagle. The fact that Brown took 21 shots as opposed to Hanlan's 13 is something that lays in the hands of the coaching staff to figure out, not Brown.
Defending the Notre Dame offense
No one said this was going to be easy. Notre Dame entered the game leading the nation in offensive efficiency. The Irish average 1.2 points per possession (BC on the other hand is #207 at 0.98). They can spread you out and make threes, and with players like Zach Auguste inside, can attack there as well. Tough assignment for sure, but the Eagles bombed miserably.
Notre Dame shot 66% from the field for the game and an ungodly 75% in the second half.
The Irish ran the high screen/roll all night long without the Eagles having any answer. Most times it was more roll than screen as the BC players simply couldn't rotate, and with Auguste scoring 14 points on 6-8 shooting and Bonzie Colson 8-9 from the field and a career high 16 points, the Irish killed the Eagles.
The 66% was an all time high in an ACC game for Notre Dame, while their 19 assists matched an all time ACC game high.
So what was the problem? I go back to the way BC hedges screens. The process of defending a ball screen is a five-man operation, not a two-man. Right now, the staff has that big man stepping out and holding that hedge a long, long time and sending the dribbler parallel to the screen. The rotation on the backside ("helping the helper") simply isn't there.
You can tell the players are confused, just by the looks on their faces. Controlling the ball handler (better ball pressure), getting over the screen, quicker help and recover turning the ball handler away from the basket, and much better backside rotation is needed to solve this.
College basketball, like the NBA, is all about defending high ball screens. Better figure it out and have multiple looks to show against it.
Chances are, this problem isn't remedied this season.
Limiting Olivier Hanlan's touches
Hanlan certainly didn't have a bad game. 19 points, 4 assists and no turnovers, right up his alley. But this could have been so much more. Hanlan didn't score for the first 12 minutes of the game, going 0-5 over that period, but once he got started, he was cooking. He made his next four straight shots, including three consecutive threes, and appeared to be ready to go off, then the touches and the looks went dark again.
Hanlan didn't take a shot the rest of the half and managed only four shots in the second half, making three. This one has to lie at the feet of the coaching staff. Hanlan has been playing great the past several weeks.
This whole notion of where is Hanlan's game disappeared to has to be gone at this point. He leads the ACC in scoring, 6th in assists, is now 10th in the ACC in FG% and sits just outside the top 10 in FT%. Outside of Duke's Quinn Cook, just slightly ahead of his in FG%, no other guards even show in the top 10.
So get him shots.
Hanlan is certainly more scoring guard than distributor, but the coaching staff seems to have very few plays set up specifically designed to get him the ball. Now I grant you, the vast number of continuity sets the Eagles run are looking to get Hanlan off both baseline off the ball screens and direct on ball screens, but those sets have been scouted and scouted. Yesterday, Mike Brey made the decision to completely deny Hanlan with Demetrius Jackson after that first half outburst and Hanlan's touches and BC's chances evaporated.
The Conte Crowd
Announced attendance at 8,366, just under a sellout, but I rarely if ever remember a home crowd so disconnected from the game. Now getting off to a slow start in the game, being 1-13 in the league, the snow, etc. etc. I get it, but there is a limit and I think yesterday reached that.
That was the #10 team in the country (Notre Dame for crying out loud) yesterday and to have it be that much of a morgue was really depressing.
At the risk of infuriating the masses, I love the "wounded warrior of the game" presentation. I find it incredibly inspiring and classy to bring out a member of the military who has so unselfishly given back to all of us. The standing ovations given those people are deserved, heartfelt and fantastic...but just once, can't the crowd bring that kind of noise for the game itself?
Winning cures all, but at this point, the best thing that can happen to this season, from the perspective of the fans...is for it to be over.
These aren't new problems to analyze, but they both had significant bearing on the game.
Notre Dame outscored BC 30-5 in bench points, with Dmitri Batten coming off the bench and allowing Garland Owens to start, accounting for all five points.
The Irish got those 30 points in 38 minutes of action; meanwhile, the Eagles' 5 points were garnered in 42 minutes of playing time.
There just aren't many options out there for the coaching staff. The move of Batten to the bench in lieu of starting Owens was something that they needed to at least give a shot, but it's debatable if the needle has moved at all in doing so.
The numbers ND 29 BC 20 are bad enough, but this is not a great Notre Dame rebounding team. The Irish entered the game #233 in the country in offensive rebound percentage, getting back a mere 27% of the shots they take. This is not surprising, considering the Irish generally play 4 guards and a single inside player. Yesterday, though, Notre Dame managed to get 8 offensive rebounds of the 19 that were in play, or a whopping 42% of those opportunities.
To put that in context, the #1 team in the country for the year in that stat is Baylor, averaging 41.5%.
The lack of depth in the front court, particularly with Magarity down now, is really starting to take its toll.