Eagles Allow Second Half To Snowball Out Of Control In Fifth-Straight Loss To Harvard

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(Graham Beck/Photo Editor)

By Austin Tedesco, Asst. Sports Editor

When head coach Steve Donahue sees his team shoot almost 60 percent from the field, he expects them to win. Despite the apparent offensive efficiency on Tuesday night, the Boston College men’s basketball fell to Harvard 79-63 in the program’s fifth straight loss to the Crimson.

“It’s hard to imagine you shoot 58 percent and lose by 16 pretty handedly,” Donahue said. “There’s a mental toughness side on both sides of the ball that they had and we didn’t. That was, I’m sure, apparent to everybody. In particular, when they pressured us – even though we were scoring we were never understanding and staying poised and confident in our offense. But when we pressured them they just moved like clockwork to the next thing. And like I said it’s kind of mind-boggling to put up those kinds of numbers and lose pretty handedly.”

Ryan Anderson opened the game by scoring 11 of the Eagles first 13 points and it looked as though the Crimson didn’t have an answer for the BC forward, but after the first five minutes his offense began to fade.

“Part of our offense is everyone moves and everyone touches the ball,” said freshman guard Joe Rahon. “Looking back we probably should’ve tried to make more of an effort on the court to try to get it to him when he was hot, but they did do a good job of keying on him. When we were driving they were shading him a little bit more than they did at the start of the game, but looking back we probably should’ve tried to ride him a little more there.”

BC kept the game in reach until the second half, when Harvard went on a run that the Eagles couldn’t match.

“The Achilles’ heel for us is that we allow a play that just happened to snowball to the next play, and it happens in all facets of basketball,” Donahue said. “It’s something that I can’t tell you how many times we talk about it, we harp on it, and we show it to them on film.”

The Harvard players methodically attacked the BC defense on their way to tying their highest point total of the season so far. They made BC defend for the whole shot-clock before finally finding a clean look that consistently fell through the net.

“That’s the two hardest things to do in basketball,” Donahue said. “Is to push it early on and stop them, and then to have the poise and toughness and confidence at the end of the shot clock, and they exploited both ends of that.”

On the offensive end, BC was flustered by the Harvard pressure which broke the rhythm of the motion offense.

“They did a great job of pressuring us and trying to deny easy swing passes,” Rahon said. “I think we didn’t handle it as well as we needed to. We knew they were going to do it. We knew it was coming and we were trying to just get backdoor cuts, get sharp cuts, and move the ball, but they did a good job of taking us out of our rhythm there for a little bit, and we were never really able to turn it around and get over the hump.”

Donahue wouldn’t chalk up the loss to experience, though.

“Can’t say experience anymore,” Donahue said. “I’m done with that. The defense was poor. It’s got to get better. We’ll work at it, but the defense was really poor.”

Although many of the Eagles looked out of sync and worn down during the second half, Donahue said it wasn’t an issue with effort.

“It’s not effort,” Donahue said. “It isn’t. We have to, my staff and myself, get them playing at a certain high level, consistently, all the time, and not missing a beat. It appears at time that it’s effort, but I just think it’s the mental toughness part of it that the guys don’t have the ability to fight through. These guys will continue to get better at it, we’ll continue to bring people into this program that understand it, and we’ll build a culture similar to what we did at Cornell and similar to what Harvard has – but to say they’re not trying? No, they try. They try really hard.”

His players need to be more mentally tough, and he says that will come through failures like this as he continues to build the program.

“I love these guys, as I say all the time,” Donahue said. “I have great confidence that they’ll get it and we’re going to work extremely hard to do it. Unfortunately, and I know I sound like a broken record, but we’re going to have failures here. We’re going to have some extreme frustration, but that to me is the only way you can be successful.”

Shots by Photo Editor Graham Beck from BC men’s basketball’s loss to Harvard tonight.

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.”

Steve Donahue and center Dennis Clifford after Thursday night’s 67-46 loss to Harvard

Three Thoughts From BC-Harvard

By Paul Sulzer

I never thought I’d graduate BC 0-4 against Harvard in basketball. Yet here we are after tonight’s 67-46 loss in Conte Forum. The Eagles played well in short stretches, especially over the first five minutes, but they failed to counter the Crimson’s adjustments. After BC opened on a 12-3 run, Harvard controlled the rest of the game. Here’s how it happened:

  • Match-up issues: When Harvard went small following BC’s run to open the game, the Eagles bent to the Crimson’s will instead of exploiting a significant size advantage inside. BC played Patrick Heckmann (13 points, five rebounds, six assists) as a fourth guard, and the freshman from Germany drove to the hoop almost at will. But BC wound up giving John Cahill 14 minutes on the wing, getting minimal productivity (one point and one assist). Those minutes could have been better spent on 6-foot-8 power forward Ryan Anderson, who played just 16 minutes (his second-lowest total of the year). His absence hurt BC on the boards, where Harvard held a 36-22 edge despite playing a consistently smaller group.

  • Faulty rotations: In my opinion, Steve Donahue isn’t getting the right players on the court at the right time. You can make a pretty compelling case that BC’s five best players are Jordan Daniels, Lonnie Jackson, Heckmann, Anderson, and Dennis Clifford. Yet that group never saw the court together. It’s important to spread out the scoring a bit between the first and second unit. But the five best players should be playing during the most critical stretches of the game. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, when the game was still within reach, Anderson and Clifford played together for just three minutes. Meanwhile, Matt Humphrey (five points, 2-of-10 shooting, 1-of-5 from 3) played 31 mistake-filled minutes. He’s a ball-stopper – someone who inhibits ball movement by holding it for too long. Give his minutes to a more efficient passer, like Daniels or Gabe Moton.

  • Failure to break down the Harvard defense: The Crimson are up there with St. Louis among the best defensive teams the Eagles have faced this year, so BC’s shooting struggles (27 percent from three) and turnover issues (17 giveaways) are understandable. That doesn’t make those shortcomings acceptable, though. BC bricked plenty of open looks and committed plenty of unforced errors. Running isolation plays for Jackson (zero 3-pointers attempted) could have helped him shake free from Oliver McNally. Finding Anderson in the post instead of on the wing would have played to his height advantage.

We lost our way offensively in the second half. It seemed like every time we shot ourselves in the foot offensively, they took advantage of it. — BC basketball coach Steve Donahue, after tonight’s 67-46 loss to Harvard