PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Two seasons ago, the reasons behind Boston College’s 82-78 loss at Providence in overtime would have been understandable. At that time, the Eagles were one of the least experienced teams in the nation with a lot of growing pains to come. But this is a different time, as the Eagles are now a very experienced team for one with just one senior, and the Eagles’ lack of poise and lackluster execution on Friday night are more concerning.
Friday night is just one game, and it can very well be an aberration. They will have to make it so since they take on UMass on Sunday at the Boston Garden. But on Friday, it cost them a very winnable game that could have shelf life later in the season.
“I wasn’t overall pleased with our execution, our poise,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “I think we’re better than that, turning the ball over, we didn’t share it enough.”
Boston College had 17 turnovers against 11 assists, and they got those assists on 26 made baskets. That made their 51 percent showing from the field (6-15 on three-pointers) deceptive, and losing the turnover battle hurt more because Providence out-rebounded them 36-20. They allowed Providence to grab 11 offensive rebounds while only getting two second chances themselves, leading to a 16-0 margin in second-chance points in favor of the Friars.
“We’re not going to win many games when we assist on 11 of 26 baskets. We’re just not,” said Donahue. “That’s not who we are.”
Those numbers also miss something else. For a lot of the first half, Providence beat the Eagles at their own game. The Friars worked the ball around to get chances at the offensive end and hit jumpers from good ball movement, and although they were just 2-7 from long range they looked more like the Eagles than the Eagles did.
And the Eagles had their chances in spite of their two best players, Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson, not playing their best games. Hanlan had 23 points, but on 6-15 shooting, and while Providence did a good job of making him work he also missed a few layups when he got to the basket. While he battled and made some big plays to keep BC right there, he had his mistakes, too. Anderson was basically a non-factor for the first 16 minutes of the game before he took over late in the first half when the Eagles grabbed the lead and for a good portion of the second half en route to a 21-point outing on 7-12 shooting, but with four turnovers. Both players fouled out.
Speaking of fouls, that was one area Donahue highlighted as evidence that this team didn’t play like one would expect a veteran group to. Both teams knew the game was sure to be called differently, and in all Donahue felt like Providence adjusted to that better than the Eagles did. The lack of flow to the BC offense for a lot of the night stands as one piece of evidence, as does the Friars’ advantage at the foul line on the evening (30-36 compared to the Eagles going 20-24 from the line), although that was also aided by late fouls by the Eagles to try to extend the game as 12 of the Friars’ free throws were in the extra session.
“We know what the new rules are, the refs are going to be consistent, it’s just that we have to be consistent with the way we play defense,” said Anderson. “We have great guards that like to initiate contact on offense, but we have to realize that they’re going to call the same thing on the other end. It’s just a matter of getting used to it, getting comfortable with it, and learning a new way of playing defense.”
Although defense was part of it, in all the Eagles did a credible job at that end, especially considering that was this team’s Achilles heel last season. The bigger problem came offensively, where too often they got stagnant or didn’t get good shots in addition to turning the ball over. Donahue felt they didn’t adjust as well to the how the game’s flow was changed by the way it was called.
Boston College can rectify this, as it’s just the first game. The lack of overall poise and execution is concerning, but it’s easy to attribute the latter to it being the first game. This is a team that has the potential to be in the NCAA Tournament based on the growth the core of this team has shown, and that doesn’t change even though a win on Friday would have been big. It would have been a road win and one that could have shelf life later in the season, but the Eagles will have more of those starting with Sunday’s game.
Although it’s just one game and could be an aberration, it wasn’t a good way to start for the Eagles. With their non-conference schedule, including a quick turnaround for their second game, they’ll need to move on fast. They will, in other words, need to overcome this adversity better than they did in the season opener. Two years ago that would have seemed like a tall order, but now it shouldn’t.