• Game 19: Boston College (7-11, 0-5) @ Notre Dame (13-5, 4-2)
• Date: Jan. 23, 2016
• Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
• Time: Noon ET
• TV: ACCN/ESPN3
• Opponent nickname: Eagles
• Head coach: Jim Christian (17-29 at BC; 259-182 overall)
• Conference: ACC
• Location: Chestnut, Hill, Mass.
• 2014-15 record: (13-19, 4-14)
BOSTON COLLEGE WOES
For Boston College, it’s gone from bad to worse with bright spots difficult to find. On the verge of their second six-game losing streak of the season, the Eagles have been woeful offensively against competent competition.
Boston College enters Saturday’s game with an average margin of defeat in its 11 setbacks of 17.3 points per game, including a 20.8-point deficit during the current five-game skid.
Simply put, Boston College is a poor offensive team. They’re shooting 42.1 percent from the field – including 32.5 percent from three-point range – and a mere 64.7 percent from the free-throw line.
The Eagles have yet to reach 70 points in a loss. In conference play, they’ve lost by 17 at home against Duke, by 28 at home versus Notre Dame, by 22 at Syracuse, by 23 at Pittsburgh and by 14 at home against Miami.
Heck, they lost to UMass-Lowell at home by two while the River Hawks fell to Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion by 26.
The Eagles are led in scoring by 6-foot-2 Rutgers transfer Eli Carter – for better or for worse. He’s averaging 17.3 points per game, but is shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three-point range. His inaccuracy doesn’t deter him. In the recent 14-point loss to Miami, Carter took 18 shots and missed 14 of them.
On one hand, Boston College needs Carter’s scoring ability; on the other hand, the Eagles become very inefficient on the offensive end when launching shots supersedes taking quality shots.
Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams just shook his head at the magnitude of the statistic. Notre Dame averages 123 points per 100 possessions, or 1.23 points per possession, which heading into this weekend is the top mark in the country.
“It’s pick your poison,” said Williams after the Irish converted 50.9 percent of their shots in Notre Dame’s 83-81 victory Wednesday. “They just pick you apart. You have to have multiple plans on matchups and multiple plans on ball-screen coverage.
“For the most part, I thought we did okay with that in trying to change things up. But that’s the way Coach (Brey) has always played. Rarely is he going to have someone on the floor that can’t pass, dribble and shoot. So the floor is going to be spaced, they take advantage of that and they know how to take advantage of that.
“They average 1.24 points per possession. Holy smokes! No. 1 in field-goal percentage. There’s not somebody you look at and go, ‘You don’t have to guard him.’ If you do, they probably score 32 on the road.”
DEFENSIVE FUTURE BRIGHT?
After allowing Virginia Tech to conduct a layup drill in the first half, no one was raving about the Notre Dame defense. Twenty minutes of basketball later, Mike Brey saw more than a silver lining; he saw a future with a very promising defensive outlook.
The key? The insertion of freshman Rex Pflueger into the lineup. In the last two games against Duke and Virginia Tech, Pflueger has logged 23 and 18 minutes of playing time, nearly half of his playing time on the season (108).
Brey always has raved about Steve Vasturia’s ability to defend. With Pflueger playing half of the last two games and Vasturia rarely coming off the court, Brey sees some exciting things happening on the defensive end.
“Rex Pflueger is so key for us,” Brey said. “What an energizing defender. Now, you have him and Vasturia that are really amazing defenders and position defenders and help defenders.
“He is a fearless guy. He sticks his nose in there. He’s really a key for us. He was in on every key defensive possession (vs. Virginia Tech). He’ll only become more important.”
Don’t use Notre Dame’s defensive effort against Boston College as a gauge for defensive progress. The last time someone did that – after Notre Dame’s 82-54 victory over the Eagles in Conte Forum – Pittsburgh made 10 of its first 12 shots at Purcell Pavilion and shredded the Irish with 58.6 shooting in the first half en route to a 10-of-19 shooting effort from three-point range.
But Brey’s point is taken. The Vasturia-Pflueger combination – not to mention Demetrius Jackson’s ball pressure up top – will make Notre Dame a better defensive team over the long haul.
Pointspread: Notre Dame by 17 ½
Prister/O’Malley Prediction: Notre Dame 85 Boston College 66
(Editor’s note: Troy Murphy – Notre Dame’s 7th all-time leading scorer (2,011) and rebounder (924) – will be inducted into the basketball program’s Ring of Honor at halftime of the Boston College game. He joins Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley, Tom Hawkins and Luke Harangody among men’s basketball players in the Ring of Honor.)