Game 30: Boston College (9-20, 2-14) @ No. 19 Notre Dame (22-7, 11-5)
-- Date: March 1, 2017
-- Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
-- Time: 8:00 pm ET
-- TV: ACC Network
-- Nickname: Eagles
-- Conference: ACC
-- Head coach: Jim Christian (271-217 overall; 29-64 in 3rd year at BC)
-- Location: Chestnut Hill, Mass
-- 2015-16 record: (7-25, 0-18 in ACC)
-- 2016 Postseason: None
-- Point spread: Notre Dame by 16½
BOSTON COLLEGE PREVIEW
What began as a season of promise has spiraled into a virtual repeat of the 2015-16 campaign when Jim Christian’s second Boston College squad failed to record a victory in 18 ACC games.
The Eagles opened the 2016-17 ACC slate with a 15-point victory over Syracuse, 13- and 11-point losses at Wake Forest and at Duke respectively, and an eight-point victory at Conte Forum against N.C. State.
Two home games, two road games, a 2-2 record. Not bad. Not bad at all.
But it’s been heartbreak after heartbreak since that last conference win on Jan. 11. There have been a few blowouts -- Florida State and Syracuse on the road, and Louisville at home.
There were the one-point loss at Miami and six-point setback at Virginia Tech, and the eight- and five-point home losses to North Carolina and Wake Forest respectively.
Perhaps none hurt more than the Feb. 14 loss to Notre Dame when the Eagles scored 49 first-half points, led by 13, took a 10-point halftime lead, and still had a 10-point advantage on the Irish with 15:32 remaining.
From that point, Notre Dame out-scored Boston College, 36-18, en route to an 84-76 Irish victory, handing the Eagles their 10th straight loss. The losing streak has reached 12 with a 32-point loss at Florida State and a 16-point home loss to Virginia Tech since the Notre Dame collapse.
“That’s the difference in the game. They’re playing to win and we’re not,” said Christian following Monday’s loss to the Hokies.
“We’re not shooting the ball with the confidence to win it and we’re not getting the stops. Simple as that.”
BOW DOWN TO BOWMAN
While 6-foot-5 sophomore Jerome Robinson continues to pace the Eagles in scoring at a 19.4 clip – he tallied 25 against Virginia Tech and 21 at Florida State since a 3-of-12 shooting game against the Irish – it was freshman Ky Bowman who singlehandedly propelled Boston College into an upset scenario two weeks ago.
Bowman scored 17 of his game-high 29 points in the first half against the Irish, connecting on 5-of-11 three-pointers for the game and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Bowman is averaging 14.5 points per game on the season, but over the last 10 games, he’s scoring at a 19.3 clip.
“We had no answers for Bowman,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey of Notre Dame’s first match-up against the talented freshman.
Brey did, however, have an answer for the rest of the Eagles, and it was a zone defense that limited Boston College to just 27 second-half points, including a mere 18 over the final 15½ minutes as the Irish out-scored the Eagles by 18 in the second half.
Boston College’s first-half performance and the 6-foot-1 Bowman’s brilliance prompted Brey to crack jokes a day later about Notre Dame’s inability to defend point guards and how Christian would use the first half against the Irish as a how-to offensive video at future clinics.
Indeed, the Eagles employ a lot of high-post ball screens that free-up passes over the top of the defense at the rim, which sliced the Irish apart in the first half.
In Notre Dame’s final home game of the season, Brey will try to find a happy medium to stopping Bowman, preventing Robinson from atoning for his poor shooting night two weeks ago, and mixing in a zone defense that was so effective against the Eagles at crunch time.
Notre Dame will honor seniors Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem, Austin Torres and walk-on Patrick Mazza prior to the 8 p.m. ET tilt with the Eagles.
“Steve and V.J. are two of the greatest winners in the history of this basketball program,” Brey said. “Given what they’ve been part of, total wins and especially what they’ve done in the NCAA tournament, it’s a special night for those guys.
“It will be hard for me to watch them go out one last time.”
Vasturia and Beachem have been two of the driving forces behind back-to-back Elite Eight trips, a two-year Notre Dame record for victories (56), as well as the three-year mark (78).
Vasturia enters tonight’s game against Boston College with 1,326 points, which ranks 29th on the all-time Irish scoring list. Beachem is 46th with 1,132 points. Vasturia is the 11th Notre Dame player to surpass 1,300 points and 300 assists.
“When you look at their record over four years, and then when you look at how they’ve delivered in March, these guys have been part of an ACC championship, two Elite Eights, and six NCAA tournament wins before we’ve even written the rest of the script this year,” said Brey in an interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “They’re big-time winners.
“What we’ve been proud of is guys get better here. We get ‘em for four years, for the most part. Guys aren’t really leaving early, and if they let us coach ‘em up, they get better, and both of these guys have really improved.”
Torres, who preserved a year of eligibility as a freshman, has announced his plans to return for a fifth year in 2017-18.
Duke’s victory over Florida State Tuesday night brought Notre Dame one step closer to earning a double-bye in the ACC tournament.
ACC tournament action begins Tuesday, March 7. A double-bye would mean Notre Dame would not open play until Thursday, March 9, and would need three victories to claim its second ACC crown in three seasons.
A victory tonight against Boston College would not assure the Irish of a double-bye. In addition to a win over the Eagles, they would need a) a Duke loss at North Carolina Saturday or b) a Florida State home loss to Miami.
Of course, there’s another way for the Irish to land a double-bye: defeat Boston College at home tonight and Louisville on the road Saturday.
“You’ve got a real shot to get to (the championship game) Saturday night if you get the double-bye,” Brey said. “If you don’t get the double-bye, it’s really, really hard.
“We control our destiny to get into that territory.”
Notre Dame currently is tied for second with Louisville, one game behind North Carolina, which lost at Virginia Monday.
POINTS IN THE PAINT
• Notre Dame has won all seven of its meetings with Boston College as a member of the ACC. Dating back to the final year in the Big East, the Irish have won eight in a row over the Eagles.
• Steve Vasturia has converted 233-of-274 from the free-throw line during his career (85.0 percent), which ranks second all-time at Notre Dame behind Chris Thomas (86.8, 2001-05). Vasturia and Thomas are the only two Irish players to a) score 1,300 points, b) hand out 300 assists and c) shoot above 85 percent from the line.
• Matt Farrell has scored double-digits in second halves of eight out of 16 ACC games, including a season-high 14 (of 17 total) against Georgia Tech last weekend.
• Notre Dame remains atop the nation in free-throw percentage at 81.5, which puts the Irish in position to top the all-time ACC record of 79.9 (N.C. State 2004). The NCAA record for free-throw percentage in a season is 82.2 by Harvard in 1984.
Prister/O’Malley Prediction: Notre Dame 87, Boston College 74