The Boston College Eagles made it interesting late in the second half, but couldn't shake off a miserable first half performance, falling to Syracuse 69-61. Another day, another conference loss as BC falls to 8-9 overall and 0-5 in ACC play.
After the Eagles got off to a hot start from beyond the arc, building up leads of 9-2 and 12-4 behind Aaron Brown's three 3-pointers, the game settled into how most of us expected the game to go. Boston College's offense couldn't get much of anything going against Syracuse's zone defense—shocking, I know—and BC's defense had no answer for Syracuse big man Rakeem Christmas (15 minutes, 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting before picking up a third foul and spending the rest of the first half on the bench). Again, shocker.
The Orange used runs of 18-1 and closed on a 9-0 run to end the half to take a 35-17 lead into the locker room.
Boston College shot an abysmal 5-of-23 from the floor in the first half, good for 21.7 percent, and committed 8 turnovers. The biggest surprise of the first half was Olivier Hanlan's performance—he finished the first half scoreless after going 0-7 from the floor (and 0-2 from three).
BC seemingly caught a bit of a break in the first half when Rakeem Christmas picked up his third personal foul with 4:42 left to play in the first half, but couldn't do much of anything when SU's big man was on the bench (outscored 9-2 over the final 4:42 of the first half). Syracuse's Trevor Cooney, who missed his first five shots of the game, came on strong to end the first half, hitting a contested three and adding a layup on an uncontested shot under the basket with time winding down to end the first half.
I think part of BC's ability to get anything going with Christmas on the bench were some questionable rotations from Jim Christian. I don't mean any disrespect to the guys, and I know Christian isn't playing with a full deck, but it's very clear that Hanlan, Brown, Batten, Heckmann and Clifford (with Magarity spelling him) is the best lineup Christian can put on the floor. When guys like Odio, Dragicevich and Cain Carney get extended minutes, it severely limits what BC can do on both ends of the floor. There were numerous plays where BC's bench players committed turnovers, missed assignments or failed to finish around the rim. BC's bench finished with no points in 32 minutes of work.
Christian's gotta ride the starters as long as he can. Some of these rotations are run- and game-killers.
Christian's decision to keep Clifford out for much of the first half with 2 fouls—especially when Christmas was on the bench—was equally confusing. At the end of the first half, Syracuse had a 24-2 edge in the paint and numerous second-chance opportunities. The few times BC did get the ball down low, they once again failed to finish strong around the rim.
In the second half, BC used an early 9-0 run to climb back in this and keep the game close the rest of the way, but never really threatened Syracuse until very late in the second half. Rakeem Christmas picked up his fourth personal foul at the 16:12 mark, and wouldn't get back into the game until 5:57 to go. In his absence, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije stepped up on the offensive end and kept Syracuse comfortably ahead throughout.
The Eagles made it interesting late with a patented BC Tease (TM), hitting some timely free throws, Syracuse bricking a bunch of theirs and Hanlan connecting from deep to cut SU's lead to 8. BC generated a turnover with a full court press, and Brown went in for an easy layup to cut the lead to 5 but it rimmed out. A Dimitri Batten dunk made it 66-60 SU with :52 to play, but that's the closest BC would come to drawing even with 'Cuse.
The close score doesn't really tell the full story here as I thought this was one of BC's poorest outings of the year, particularly the first half. Obviously this team can't weather a poor shooting performance from a guy like Hanlan and win in the ACC, but there were numerous opportunities to jump back in this game that were missed, particularly with Christmas on the bench for over half the second half (he would eventually foul out).
Boston College squandered pretty solid outings from the grad transfers Aaron Brown (21 points on 5-of-13 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) and Dimitri Batten (17 points on 5-of-11 shooting, 5 rebounds). Last year's Dome heroes did not have great games. Patrick Heckmann finished 1-8 from the floor (0-4 from three) with 9 points. Hanlan finished with 13 on 5-of-15 shooting.
Unlike the Duke game where it was clear BC would get out-classed from the get-go, this game seemed much more winnable. Without the awful first-half performance, this would have been a game.
My back-of-the-envelope math gives Syracuse a 3-point lead in this year's Orange Eagle trophy competition with the back-end of the regular season basketball games yet to be played (women's @ SU, men's at home vs. SU). The remaining sports are going to have to come on strong down the stretch if BC hopes to win this year's trophy, especially with another 9 points likely to go SU's way—6 more to the men, 3 to the women—in the remaining regular season basketball games.
Boston College next travels to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at McCamish Pavilion. Like BC, Georgia Tech is 0-5 in ACC play this year.
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