The Eagles kicked off the New Year by opening up Conte Forum to the 6-1 Louisville Cardinals to continue their ACC play. The Cardinals came into the game as -6 favorites and riding off of a victory against John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, who are having some troubles of their own this season. Casting that game aside, Louisville has proven to be an effective team this season when it comes to rebounding the rock as they are sixth in the ACC at rebounding while BC ranks dead last. This lopsided advantage would prove as the Cardinal’s kryptonite for the Eagles as the paint become the area of weakness for Boston College throughout pretty much the whole game.
The first half almost went exactly according to the predicted script by Will Bagz in his preview of the matchup: BC jacking up threes to try to save themselves and Louisville simply dominating the glass. Guess which side came out on top early on. BC’s play in the opening minutes to me was reminiscent of starting up a leaf-blower. You pull the chord, get the gas going to where it appears to be working for a few seconds before it sputters out leaving you cranking it again and getting frustrated at trying to get it to work. The Eagles were able to jump out to a quick 10-3 lead but it was only a matter of time before BC was ice cold from the field shooting 2-14 from 3 (with both threes coming from Heath), and shooting a meager 29% from the rest of the floor.
On the defensive end, BC opened up their paint to the Cardinals who put on a clinic down low capitalizing on second-chance opportunities. They were able to outrebound the Eagles 25-14 in the first half alone. More specifically, they outrebounded BC 10-3 on offensive rebounds. Louisville guard Carlik Jones was having a field day in the first half finishing with 7 rebounds (4 offensive) and helping to facilitate those into second chance attempts. Louisville was also able to shoot much more efficiently than the Eagles where they were taking good looking shots and hitting 41.7% from both beyond the arc (5-12) and the rest of the floor with David Johnson leading all scorers with 14 points. The only silver linings for BC were that they were able to match the Cardinals in turnovers with 8 a piece and finish shooting 88% from the line. This does not sound like much, but for BC that is quite an accomplishment as they are currently ranked 13th in the ACC in free-throw percentage.
The second half saw a little bit more life out of the Eagles offense. By that, I mean it was pretty much the Jay Heath show for a majority of the half. Heath was able to give BC a little bit of momentum in the early minutes draining a few threes and eventually cutting the Cardinal lead in half and bringing the Eagles into striking distance. Yet, it appears as though Jay Heath was the only one that wanted to show up as nobody else from the Eagles stepped in to compliment his performance. It has been said time-and-time again that in order to succeed in the ACC, there has to be a strong sense of chemistry with players contributing in all facets. There was none of that today for the Eagles as Heath was seemingly the only Eagle that wanted to put the ball through the hoop. Granted Tabbs was able to step up in the second half and finish with 15 points of his own, but between the two of them they were the only ones (aside from a garbage time three from Ashford-Langford) to find success beyond the arc. On the day, BC jacked up 33 three-pointers and only connected on 8. Yes, you read that correctly.
Most of the Eagles scoring production actually came from the charity stripe as BC was given a plethora of opportunities to climb back into the contest due to the Refs being rather whistle happy in the waning minutes of the game. While they were successful at the line (22-28) in comparison to previous games, that is still 22 whole points coming simply from drawing fouls. In other words, 34% of their points were derived from the line. Again, I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but you simply cannot win games being dependent on your success at the line, you have to find points elsewhere which BC could not do. Chalk up a lot of that to Louisville’s defense. The Cards played excellent perimeter defense and clogged up the paint effectively. They finished the game outrebounding the Eagles 43-30 with David Johnson and Carlik Jones combining for 17 of the team’s total rebounds.
Christian tried toying around with a zone defense in the second to stop the bleeding which actually seemed to be rather effective at first allowing for some solid defensive possessions. Nonetheless, Christian eventually switched back to man-defense which proved not effective in controlling the glass eaters of Louisville allowing for the Cards to gather multiple second chance opportunities. The Eagles also struggled in capitalizing on turnovers even though they were able to force the Cards into giving up the ball 14 times.
One thing I did like seeing was the continued perseverance and determination for the Eagles to fight until the end even when the game seemed out of reach. Specifically, I will give a tip of the cap to Ashford-Langford who went down with an apparent hyperextended knee energy early in the first half. He came back into the contest and fought through the pain to take some last minute drives to the cup, step up on the full court press and drain a three of his own to try to give the Eagles a last surge of hope. Unfortunately, it was just too late at that point for his attempted heroics to get the Eagles of the hole that they had dug themselves in throughout the entire match.
Overall, this was another run of the mill performance from the Eagles. Granted, I saw some more pep in their play in the second half and a continued fighting spirit from the likes of Heath and Langford. The question I still have is, who the hell wants to step up to support these guys that are actually playing to compete? Mitchell seems like a shell of himself from last season, Karnik made some nice assists but is seeming more and more useless under the basket for put backs and Rich Kelly comes off the bench looking incredibly lost out there and not fully understanding his role on the floor. If this team wants any shot at finishing with a handful of ACC wins, there HAS to be a reformed sense of chemistry along with a firm understanding of each player’s role on the team. My gut instinct is telling me that it may be a little too late.
The Eagles travel to Durham next Wednesday for a late night tip-off against the #20 Duke Blue Devils.