BC Falls Short At NC State

January 20, 2012

By Stephen Sikora

The Boston College men’s basketball team took a 2-1 ACC record into Thursday night’s game against NC State. Its 76-62 loss to the Wolfpack reminded fans that this is still a remarkably young team, and should put to rest any thoughts of the Eagles contending in the ACC. Here’s what transpired:

Turnovers and Transition Defense

The Eagles turned the ball over 17 times, with all but one coming on steals by NC State. The Wolfpack are not particularly known to force turnovers, as they came into the game averaging 6.4 steals a contest, good for 7th in the ACC. The takeaways came in all forms, including poorly executed passes, bad passing decisions, and mental mistakes. Sure, the fact that NC State was aggressive in the passing lanes certainly had an impact on the high number of turnovers, but to allow that many steals is unacceptable, even for such a young and inexperienced team.

Those helped contribute to what seemed like an endless array of transition opportunities for the Wolfpack, and they absolutely capitalized. The Eagles’ transition defense was dreadful, as NC State had its way with virtually every fast break possession, whether it was getting easy layups or open threes. Additionally, there were many instances when BC failed to get back on the defensive end quickly, which also led to a number of quick, easy shots. Their young age and inexperience definitely showed a glaring weakness tonight. But with head coach Steve Donahue leading the way, both the excessive turnovers and lackluster transition defense have a great chance of being improved upon in the future.

Interior Presence

There were times in the game when BC attempted to develop a post presence, but it never developed. After the Eagles won the tip, the ball went inside to Dennis Clifford, who tried a lefty hook but got badly blocked. They again turned to Clifford for their first play of the second half, and this time he could only muster a line drive right hook that had barely a chance of going in. A number of his shots either weren’t close or were blocked, while his post moves didn’t look especially pretty and contributed to his five turnovers. Meanwhile, for the few minutes that center KC Caudill came off the bench, his post moves looked superior to Clifford’s. He shot 3-of-4 from the field in limited minutes, compared to 5-of-10 for Clifford.

This inferior interior performance extended to the defensive end, where leading Wolfpack rebounder Richard Howell had 16 rebounds, five on the offensive end. Overall, NC State outrebounded BC 40 to 23. It was telling that at the end of the first half, the Eagles leading rebounder was Gabe Moton. After tonight’s performance, it will be interesting to see if Donahue adjusts the playing time of his two centers, as the split tonight was 32 minutes for Clifford and eight for Caudill. There’s definitely a reason why Clifford, currently shooting close to 60 percent, has the starting nod. But teams with bigger and stronger players such as NC State may pose problems for him, and with Caudill having almost 40 pounds on Clifford, maybe he will get some more looks against bigger teams.

The Humphrey File

Going into tonight’s game, Matt Humphrey led the team with 10.1 points per game. However, he’s accomplished that figure shooting an abysmal 33 percent from the field and 29 percent from the three-point line. These percentages almost certainly played a role in him coming off the bench against both URI and UNC, but after responding with a solid game against the Tar Heels, Humphrey has found himself back in the starting lineup for BC’s last three games. However, that could very well change again at any time.

Thursday, Humphrey shot 2-of-8 from the floor, and did not connect on any of his five three-point attempts. Of those five, they included an air ball, a couple of deep and contested threes early in the shot clock, and a miss on a wide-open attempt. Interestingly, Humphrey played only 20 minutes in the game, nearly nine minutes below his season average. Danny Rubin—who made 2-of-3 3-pointers—replaced him a few minutes into the second half, after which the transfer from Oregon was done for the night. There’s no denying Humphrey has basketball skills, which he did show at times tonight, most notably in a play going left past a defender for a layup with only two seconds on the shot clock. But as long as he continues his dreadful shooting, we may see more minutes for guys like Rubin and Patrick Heckmann, who tonight combined for 36 minutes, 5-of-8 shooting and 13 points.

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