Just as everyone predicted, your Boston College Eagles sit at 2nd in the ACC after a 60-53 victory over reigning national champion and #18 Virginia. It was a game that many had written off, perhaps even more so when the Eagles announced that they would be without Derryck Thornton in addition to Nik Popovic. But the Eagles didn’t care that they were down two of their best and most important players. They came out playing hard and kept their intensity all game. They didn’t flinch when the Cavaliers took the lead back, as they often have this season. And I don’t think I’ve seen a better performance by the Eagles inside the paint against Virginia’s vaunted pack line defense.
But the highlight, for me, was Steffon Mitchell. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Steffon Mitchell. I think most other people on this board are too. No player in my time rooting for BC has played as hard as consistently as he has. Hell, his performance against Duke in 2017 was the first time I think I’ve ever truly appreciated post defense.
But last night might have overtaken that cold and stormy night in 2017 as his best performance. Instead of a freshman locking down Marvin Bagley III on a team based around Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman, and Jordan Chatman, he was a leader on a court that needed one.
Steffon had two tough finishes early to set the tone for the game. He cleaned up the boards on both ends, on good shots and air balls. His defense was as good as it has ever been. He did all this over 30 minutes after taking two IVs and fighting through migraines, nausea, and flu. Jim Christian said he wasn’t even sure if Mitchell would play until five minutes before tip off. There’s allegedly a picture of his bloody towel and the IV from pregame. Nothing could stop him.
But with the chance to put the game away, I think we were all thinking what my former colleague Katie Bent was:
Need Steff in the end of this game because #winningplays but will come down to free throws so also need Steff not in this game. Jim Christian problems.— Katie Bent (@YourFriendKTB) January 8, 2020
She’s not wrong. He was 4-9 from the line, and 53% on the year. And when he let fly that first free throw, he ran towards the basket because damn it if I’m not going to make it, I’ll still fight like hell for that rebound. It was for naught; Mitchell came through when it mattered most. Ice in his veins, he put them both down. Game over.
I’m not trying to take away from the other great performances. Jay Heath is a star in the making, no question. Julian Rishwain is a spark plug and is going to be Jordan Chatman on steroids. CJ Felder showed glimpses of the finishing ability and athleticism we saw in recruiting tapes. And Jared Hamilton continues to be the man to step up in big moments for this team.
But we live in a world of half-assing and disconnected, disengaged people who think showing up and checking boxes is enough. A world of “I can’t” and “I won’t.” And in such a world, Mitchell’s performance is downright inspiring. To be honest, if he had phoned it in yesterday, given his condition and the long odds, I would have forgiven him. But instead, Steffon Mitchell got up, pushed all the excuses aside, and helped his team take down the defending champs. So we should all cut the bullshit, and try to be a little more like Steffon Mitchell.