Five quick takes following another BC near miss, as the Eagles rallied from a 19 point first half deficit only to come up just short again, dropping a 74-70 decision to the #25 Clemson Tigers at Conte Forum on Wednesday night.
How are these losses impacting this team’s mentality?
Watching the game, ESPN rolled through the litany of one possession losses suffered by Clemson a year ago. These things have a way of snowballing on themselves, that when you find a way to win them, you continue to do so and when you find a way to lose them, they take a mental toll.
While it’s true that if you play with fire too often, in the end, you generally get burned, the ability to win these games is a long term benefit to any team.
I am not sure we can put BC in this category quite yet.
The Eagles have played three one or two possession ACC games this season, all against top 25 teams are 1-2 in those games. A year ago, they played in only three games of two possessions or less in conference all season. So while I believe there is clear improvement on the court, it is very likely that the young Eagles are going to be in the same situation time and time again and need to battle through one close game after another in conference.
This is a natural growth pattern of any athletic program. Being non competitive then leads to being competitive but not getting over the hump, to then finding ways to win those games, before finally being considered an upper echelon or elite team.
BC is only at the second rung on that ladder and they still need to prove they can take that next step. These are growing pains, but may be even more painful to watch than a year ago if the close losses mount and ultimately begs the question of whether this team breaks through and capture these games or do they mentally get beaten down instead.
Some good minutes from Luka Kraljevic
The numbers don’t show it and I am far from ready to anoint him the answer, but BC got a positive contribution from Luka Kraljevic. For the first time I can recall, Jim Christian played Kraljevic and Nik Popovic together, with Kraljevic at the four.
He is extremely raw and had issues quickly processing decisions, particularly defensively, but he plays very hard, brings an excellent attitude, a willingness to do what is needed and can face up from 12 ft or so and make jump shots.
BC needs to determine how Kraljevic and JC Reyes fit into the 2017-18 equation and it looks like the minutes are leaning slightly toward the Slovenian, with the 6’10 FR averaging 14.5 minutes per game over the past two ACC contests.
Clemson locked to the perimeter players
More so than any team I can recall, Clemson stayed locked to their perimeter defensive assignments and resisted giving a great deal of help. They cheated a bit on Steffon Mitchell, but were anchored to Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman and Jordan Chatman in particular.
After a comatose first half, Bowman and especially Robinson, went off in the 2nd half, while Chatman went scoreless and took just two shots. The two shots were his fewest on the season with the second fewest being a 2 point outing at Providence, where he took just five.
It is no secret that the Eagle backcourt is what wins this team games and although Robinson nearly pulled off the feat despite the defensive strategy, the Tigers were not going to make it easy.
This gave Chatman no space for open threes and although he’s better than people believe he is off the dribble, he was unable to shake free there either.
In the last Five Quick Takes post after the UVA game, I mentioned that BC needs these three to all contribute heavily to win. Yup, they came close, but that’s 3 for 3 in conference games where the result matches the success of each of the three guards individually.
Teams are willing to let Nik Popovic work one on one in the post and take their chances as opposed to letting any of these guys go free. Popovic loves the two dribbles middle post series and eventually will become a guy you can count on consistently for points when the ball goes inside, but at this point, he is the fourth option on a top three heavy offensive team.
Effort and its exponential results
This is a theme we’ve touched on many times in the past, but it was very relevant on Wednesday night and that was how hard the Eagles played and the results they got out of them.
As was brought up on telecast, when the ball goes in the basket, your energy level goes up. The issue was in the first half, it just wasn’t going in and while it would be completely wrong to say the Eagles dogged it in the first half, they didn’t play with the fire they needed to and dug themselves a hole they couldn’t get out of.
There is no method to measure effort. You can talk about rebounding numbers, defensive deflections...those energy plays and they do have their place, but gauging this is more art than science, more feel than fact.
What was clear was that BC turned up the level of intensity in the second half. Was it 10% more, 20% more, there is no way to tell, but they definitely played harder and the results showed.
How big is Wake Forest?
Last season the Eagles had come off back to back wins over Providence and Syracuse and went to Winston-Salem with very high hopes only to see them dashed. The 79-66 loss was something that BC never quite recovered from.
Spreads aren’t out for this one yet, but this is the first of the ACC games where BC should be favored and quite honestly should win. BC was done in a year ago by John Collins and Dino Mitoglou.
Wake comes off its first ACC win, beating Syracuse at home, but in the midst of that win, losing their leading scorer in Keyshawn Woods.
I will argue that this is the biggest game this team has played in sometime. Win and although I still am not ready to put this team in the NCAA discussion, they definitely stay in the post season discussion, lose and that mental challenge continues to grow.