Let me be the first to say that I was wrong. I was wrong in my prediction that Villanova would cover and, thankfully, I am not a betting man so my money stayed in my wallet tonight. However, as an Eagles fan, I have to say that I am thrilled to see BC not only cover, but to see them fight tooth and nail to try to pull off an upset against Wright’s squad. There were certainly moments throughout the game where I could picture BC’s upset being splashed across all sports media outlets. Yet, I have seen this song and dance before so I rightfully did not want to get my hopes up too high. Nonetheless, I saw some excellent progress from the team tonight and I can firmly state that this is not the team that we saw last year.
Going into the first half, we all were on the edge of our seats to see what the starting rotation would be for Christian’s Eagles. With Karnik sidelined for an indefinite amount of time, the Eagles came out with a lineup consisting of Tabbs, Heath, Mitchell, Makai-Ashton Langford Jr., and CJ Felder, all of which would make a significant impact in tonight’s performance.
Early in the half, BC came out showing a zone defense that seemed extremely impactful out of the gate. The Wildcat’s seemed completely befuddled by this defensive construction by Christian as they were forced to take a lot of their shots from the outside perimeter. This clearly was not in their game script as Villanova finished shooting 4-13 from three. In conjunction with this adjustment, BC put continous pressure on Villanova’s leading guard, Collin Gillespie, by trapping him at the top of the key and making it difficult to find his rhythm early on. Gillespie finished the half shooting 3-10 from the field and notching 2 boards and 2 assists along the way. What was a crazy surprise was that the Eagles were able to control the game inside early on and find their way to the cup through the likes of Robinson-Earl and Samuels. They outscored the Wildcats in the paint by a +10 margin (30 to 20) to end the half. A lot of that had to do with some insane athletism coming from Jay Heath as well as some of the newer members to the team, Makai Ashford-Langford, Rich Kelly, and Freddy Scott.
In their debuts for the Eagles, all three of the new guys proved that they had something to offer to the team. Langford has insane speed that is reminiscent of Ky Bowman’s ability to drive to the cup. Yet, similar to Ky, I fear that this could be a two-way street for Langford. There were a few missed opportunities for Langford where it looks like he runs out of his own shoes causing him to blow by defenders, but not slow himself down enough to finish at the rack. Either way, I love the kid’s toughness and he was surely a bright spot for the offense. Rich Kelly operated in a similar fashion. Despite is height difference, Kelly has no fear in taking it through the trees and trying to finish smoothly. He is not afraid to get physical as he showed a few times tonight that he is willing to put his body on the line to draw a foul which is exactly the type of intensity this team needs to match Heath’s already innate ability to do so. To add, he also has a smooth shot from beyond the arc which can prove highly valuable. Furthermore, to round things off, there is Freddy Scott. This is the big we need. Tall, thick and the perfect plug in the paint on defense. We did not get to see much of his offensive capabilities in the minutes he played tonight, but we certainly witnessed his strong ability to contest shots and use his big frame to be a dominating factor down low.
With all of the strengths of these new incomers working in tandem with the talents of Heath and Mitchell surrounding them, the Eagles were able to keep things even with the Wildcats despite Tabb’s rusty opening half. BC was able to finish the half shooting 51.9% from the field, out rebound Villanova 20-11 and keep the game tied 34 a piece going into the break. The major issue that was hampering the Eagles was their continued turnovers where they had committed 7 in the half which is not terrible, but also not what you want to see if you’re trying to take down a goliath like Villanova. If they could tighten that margin up in the second and keep up the same intensity as the first half then I didn’t see why they couldn’t shock the college basketball world. And for the most part, they did.
The second half got most Eagles fans on the edge of their seats as BC was able to grab some solid run on offense going up by as much as 9. Langford and Heath continued to excel from deep and CJ Felder and Mitchell were doing their jobs cleaning up the paint. Not to mention, BC did not commit a single foul until 9 minutes into the second half while simultaneously putting the Wildcats in the bonus. Not to mention, they cut their turnovers down with them only committing four in the entire half. Furthermore, every time Villanova start to get the gears turning, BC would almost always respond with an answer of their own. This game was seemingly neck-and-neck until the waning minutes of the game where Jim Christian decided to switch to man defense which, in turn, flipped the script on the game.
The second Christian switched up his defensive scheme, the game started to fall through BC’s hands. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was able to start feasting in the paint and end the game with a double-double (18 Pts, 10 RBs). Justin Moore was able to work against his defender and shimmy his way to wide-open looks from mid-range. Jermaine Samuels now had the ability to easily box out and grab some necessary boards for second chance opportunities. All-in-all the defense just folded in on itself and its lack of success leaked into the Eagles’ offense. There was some questionable shot selection from Langford and Heath down the stretch where they almost seemed rushed taking their shot and not giving themselves enough time to let the offense develop. As a result, the offense became inconsistent when the game mattered the most and the Wildcats were able to walk into the tunnel with a narrow victory against Boston College.
Overall, this was surely a disappointing loss and I do not always like to give the nod to stating that this was a “moral victory”. However, with that said, it was clear tonight that these guys played their tails off on primetime television and want to make a name for themselves in the ACC. The starting rotation that Christian rolled out proved effective and I am excited to watch their chemistry strengthen as their season progresses. All-in-all, a much better than expected showing from your 20-21 Eagles.
Boston College will proceed in the bracket to battle for third place as they take on a Rhode Island team that put on a strong showing of their own against #18 Arizona State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 EST Thanksgiving Day.