Eagles Falter After Holding Early Lead, Lose To Harvard
By Greg Joyce
Through the first nine minutes of Thursday night’s men’s basketball game at a sold-out Conte Forum, it seemed like Boston College was ready to turn the tables on No. 23 Harvard and play the spoiler against the Crimson in their annual match-up. The Eagles were up 20-11, and clicking on both ends of the floor. But four minutes later, Harvard had figured out its adjustments, tying the game at 22, and went on the drop BC for the fourth year in a row by a score of 67-46.
The Crimson’s clutch three-point shooting and the Eagles’ inability to finish at the rim led to the demise of BC, as Harvard went on runs of 19-2 and 18-3 throughout the game to secure the victory.
“I just thought we lost our way offensively in the second half,” head coach Steve Donahue said. “[We] battled really hard defensively for long stretches. It seemed like every time we shot ourselves in the foot offensively, they took advantage of it. Defensively, I thought we did a very good job, most of the game. But this was offense in the second half for sure.”
The Eagles came out of the gate strong with a game plan that was working, racing off to the early lead. They controlled the Harvard offense, and on their own offensive end, utilized the pick and roll often to get Dennis Clifford open shots.
But the Crimson were quick to adjust, and figured out what BC was doing by the end of the first half and into the second frame, as they held the Eagles to just 13 points in the second half.
“I think we could have executed a little better—not just getting it to me, but overall,” Clifford said of the second-half offensive woes. “I think in the first half, they weren’t expecting us to do the action that we did. But I think the only difference in the second half was that they were more conscious of that. They fought a little better from that.”
“They’re a very good basketball team, and they made adjustments,” Donahue added. “A couple little things that they did with the ball screen which really took us out of it in the second half. I tried to explain to guys that certain things are going to be there now—that action’s not necessarily going to be Dennis rolling to the basket. They did a good job of taking that away, so you can’t try it.”
Throughout the game, Patrick Heckmann kept the Eagles close for as long as he could, using his ability to drive to the rim to score when his team needed points most.
“I thought Patrick would have to play well tonight,” Donahue said. “[Harvard] goes small, [so] put Patrick at the four, it’s a game where I think he can get something off the dribble. I thought he played well. He has a trade that is hard to find, a kid at that size that can go by people and still has a sense of passing.”
Heckmann finished with 13 points and six assists in the game, joining Clifford (14 points) as the only Eagles with double-digit points.
But as much as Heckmann could do, Harvard pulled away in the second half with a big 18-3 run, as the BC offense stalled out. The Eagles did not convert a field goal in the final 8:32 of the game, eliminating any possibility of a comeback
“I think as we mature as a team and individually, we should be able to get that out of our way,” Clifford said of BC’s second-half scoring droughts this season. “We should be able to go down every time and get a good shot on offense. That should really help us.”
Despite suffering another loss at the hands of the Crimson, Donahue was able to see positives in light of another frustrating defeat.
“I was pleased for long stretches of this basketball game,” Donahue said. “It was probably the last 10 minutes of the game where we had a couple critical plays on offense. I think we could have cut it to four, and we were guarding.
“[Harvard is] a very good basketball team and they take advantage of it. They shot the ball extremely well tonight, they shared it like they normally do. You hold them to 42 percent and [force] 13 turnovers, and keep them off the foul line, I think we would have a chance. Unfortunately we just didn’t play as well offensively in the second half as I would have liked.”