Boston College and Pittsburgh purportedly played a game of basketball tonight. At least it was billed as such. BC even had this game in hand despite a so-so performance only to blow it—in pathetic, painful and near-comical fashion.
After building an 18-14 lead midway through the first half, BC, in typical BC fashion, would go on a six-minute-33-second scoring drought that was broken by a Garland Owens layup with 2:56 to play. I must have watched hundreds of BC games over the years and just once I'd love to see this program not struggle to hit water from the boat for a prolonged stretch of game clock. I know "basketball is a game of runs #analysis" but it always feels like every. single. damn. game, there's one of these prolonged scoring droughts that goes on so long it makes you noticeably uncomfortable watching from home (like waiting for the joke punchline during an episode of Family Guy). Fortunately, Pitt didn't make BC pay for its scoring drought, and BC, almost inexplicably, found itself up five points going into the locker room.
After a strong second half powered by Olivier Hanlan, the Eagles simply choked the game away. CHOKED. C H O K E D. [Insert Reggie Miller choke sign dot GIF here]
Leading by 10 with three minutes to go, and by six with just over a minute to play, BC conducted a turnover symphony down the stretch, allowing Pitt to tie the game at 53 apiece. At the end of regulation, Patrick Heckmann beat his man off the dribble and had an open look that rattled out. Dennis Clifford corralled the rebound but missed a wide open—and I mean WIDE OPEN, like, according to Steve Miller and Eddie Fogler, "99 times out of 100" open—shot at the buzzer that would have sealed it for BC.
In the extra frame, Boston College jumped out to a five-point lead on a Patrick Heckmann three-pointer with 2:46 to play. On the next possession, another Heckmann three-pointer from the same spot rattled out and the Eagles would not find the scoring sheet for the rest of the game. Pitt's Josh Newkirk scored with 5.9 seconds to go to take the lead for the first time in the entire extra session, then BC came down and Patrick Heckmann blew another pretty solid opportunity to score and win the game.
Perhaps Bob Ryan was right about this team...
The story of the game was Boston College's inability to break the opponent's zone defense. The Eagles just looked completely lost, with what the announcers referred to repeatedly as "weave" around the three-point arc replacing Donahue's "windshield wiper" pass-along-the-arc-until-someone-chucks-up-a-three offensive sets. Boston College started the game off hot offensively, but once Pitt got out of the man and went zone, it was all but over for BC. The Eagles, unable to break the zone, either committed a turnover or would up settling for a bad shot.
Boston College simply doesn't have the talent to finish down low. Once the opponent extends the zone, putting pressure on the guards, they have a difficult time getting the ball down low to either Clifford or Magarity. And, in the off chance that they can get the ball in the paint, neither of those guys can finish around the rim given the slightest bit of defensive pressure. But, you know, sixth tallest roster in Division I.
BC straight up choked this game away. You can't point to the officiating or the coaches for this loss, other than maybe drawing up some offensive sets that are capable of breaking a simple 2-3 zone. Those excuses ring hollow. The players simply didn't execute down the stretch and will have to endure the pain of losing an infinitely winnable game against a marginal Pitt program in the most insufferable manner possible. How the program responds to this loss, particularly guys like Clifford and Heckmann, who looked visibly frustrated at the end, will tell a lot about Boston College basketball under Jim Christian.