10 THOUGHTS ON THE BOSTON COLLEGE GAME
Rutgers (8-14, 2-10 Big East) lost 74-64 to sixth-ranked Boston College (20-1, 10-1 Big East) at the Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill in a game that was closer than the final score indicated. The game started ominously as Boston College leapt out to a 12-2 lead with layups and putbacks. However, the Scarlet Knights did not lay down and scratched their way back into the game. Rutgers twice narrowed the deficit to a single point before the Eagles opened an 11-point lead with a 10-0 run. Rutgers scored the final six points of the 1st Half to trail by five at halftime, 34-29. Rutgers seized its only lead, 44-43 at 12:19 after an 11-4 run. But the Eagles immediately recaptured the lead, icing the game with a 23-9 run. Here are ten thoughts on the Boston College game.
1. Crunch Time. Boston College reminds me a lot of Pittsburgh. The Eagles don't win impressively. But their consistent winning is impressive. Like Pittsburgh, Boston College possesses a mental toughness that allows them to coolly close tight games. Their opponents get tense; the Eagles continue to work for good shots. When Rutgers seized its first lead at 44-33 with 12:20 remaining, Boston College scored on ten of its next eleven possessions. A one-point Rutgers lead was quickly transformed into a ten-point Eagle advantage. And Boston College walked away with yet another unimpressive win. Giving the Eagles a very impressive record of 20-1.
2. Zone Defense. Rutgers played virtually the entire game in an aggressive, trapping zone defense. The zone slowed the game to a comfortable tempo for Rutgers. And knocked Boston College out of the rhythm of its motion offense. The Eagles took more perimeter shots, which they are not accustomed to attempting. Their offense is designed to get them lots of shots in the paint – in the post, off screen-cut, and off screen-curl. The zone forced Boston College to alter its offense. While the Eagles shot 47% in the 1st Half, many of the made FGAs were second chance points on putbacks. However, Boston College solved the Rutgers zone in the 2nd Half and shot 56% from the field. The Eagles scored 40 points in the 2nd Half, a pace that Rutgers could not hope to match.
3. Defensive Rebounding. The game was decided by the rebounding battle at the Eagle end of the court. Boston College outrebounded Rutgers 16-11 on the Scarlet Knight defensive glass. Defensive rebounding has been an ongoing problem with the Rutgers zone as defenders fail to box out opposing players. A good defensive rebounding effort would claim 65% - 75% of all rebounds available on the defensive glass. Rutgers collected only 40%, leading to 17 second chance points by Boston College. Only five of Byron Joynes' 12 rebounds were defensive. Ollie Bailey grabbed only two defensive rebounds in 31 minutes. Marquis Webb collected only two in 35 minutes. Quincy Douby had one in 37 minutes. Ricky Shields had none in 26 minutes. Juel Wiggan had one in 26 minutes. The poor defensive rebounding allowed Boston College to pad its FG percentage with easy putbacks. Worse, it allowed Boston College a to score on a high percentage of its possessions.
4. 3-Point Defense. Boston College is a big, strong team not known for the prowess of its perimeter shooting. A zone defense will disrupt the Eagle's motion offense and take away its effective inside game. But, the inevitable consequence of a collapsing zone is open 3PAs. The big questions were whether the Eagles would take the open shots and, if so, whether they would make them. The answers were "yes" and "yes." Boston College made 8 of 18 3PAs (44%). SG Sean Marshall was especially deadly, making 4 of 8 3PAs. It seemed like Boston College countered every Rutgers threat with a timely 3-ball. When Rutgers took its only lead on a 3PA by Ricky Shields, SF Jared Dudley immediately answered with a 3-ball of his own. It is unfair to fault a defense designed to prevent inside scoring for allowing a 3-point barrage. Sometimes you just have to pick your poison.
5. Turnover Margin. Outshot. Outrebounded. That doesn't leave a team much wiggle room to scrape through with a win. The only way to overcome deficiencies in these two crucial areas is to outscore your opponent from the FT line or win the TO battle. Rutgers forced 14 Eagle TOs while committing only nine of their own. The plus five TO margin was enough to offset Boston College's plus five advantage in offensive rebounds. But it wasn't enough to offset Boston College's superior shooting.
6. Craig Smith. Smith entered the game averaging 18 ppg as a candidate for Big East Player of the Year honors. The burly power forward was the reason that I penciled both games with Boston College as losses in my preseason predictions. I thought Rutgers would especially struggle with Smith. The swarming, trapping Rutgers zone limited Smith to two points in the 1st Half on 1 of 3 FGAs. Smith remained relatively quiet for the first eight minutes of the 2nd Half. He came to life after Rutgers took the lead. Smith scored eleven points in the Eagles' decisive 23-9 run. He finished the game with 13 points on 6 of 11 FGAs.
7. Byron Joynes. Joynes had another good game, this time against All-Big East competition in Smith. Joynes was primarily responsible for keeping Smith relatively quiet. Smith did much of his damage in the 2nd Half while Byron was on the bench after picking up his third foul. Joynes collected a career-high 12 rebounds but only five were defensive. Furthermore, despite seven offensive rebounds, Joynes made only 3 of 9 FGAs. Byron is a work-in-progress. He just needs to keep working and expanding his skills set.
8. Ricky Shields. Ricky broke out of a scoring slump extending five games back to the Villanova debacle. He again came off the bench in a reserve role. Ricky scored 16 points on 5 of 10 FGAs, 4 of 7 3PAs, and 2 of 2 FTAs. His timely 3-balls kept Rutgers in the game. And he gave the Scarlet Knights their only lead. Shields led a balanced scoring effort but offense wasn't the problem. Defense was.
9. Manny Flores. DNP. Again. Metro-Atlantic Conference, here he comes?
10. Road Kill. Rutgers' conference road record now stands at 2-28 under Waters. Surely, nobody expected Rutgers to beat the sixth-ranked Eagles on the road. But Rutgers had the lead with twelve minutes remaining. And then the Scarlet Knights looked down. While Boston College scored on ten of eleven possessions to spark a 23-9 run, Rutgers committed four of its nine TOs and allowed six second chance points off offensive rebounds during this decisive stretch. Once again, Waters crew found a way to lose in crunch time. Oh well, they can "still hold serve."
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