The Eagles entered Sunday afternoon's game with an 11-game losing streak and were looking to break out of their 0-for-11 ACC play. Unfortunately, in a Conte Forum filled with Orange, the Eagles came up just short, falling 75-61.
Defensively, the Eagles came out swinging, holding Syracuse scoreless for almost four minutes. The entire first half was a struggle for the Orange, going 3-13 from long range and shooting 44 percent from the floor. Unfortunately, the Syracuse bigs were eating the Eagles up on the glass, grabbing six offensive rebounds allowing second chance points and erasing their poor shooting on the perimeter.
The Eagles first half offense was a one man show starring freshman Matt Milon, who finished the first half alone with 20 points --- the Eagles totaled 32 in the half. Milon drained his first five shots of the game, went 8-for-12 from the field, and made all four threes he attempted in the first half, going 5-for-7 on the night. The matchup in this one was key for his success, with the zone defense the Orange plays he had plenty of room to do what he does best.
Playing a compact 2-3 zone for 40 years, the key to beating a team like Syracuse is successfully hitting threes in the room they give, but very few can execute because of how well coached Jim Boeheim’s teams are. With the help of Milon's hot hand, perfect from the charity stripe and the three point line, the Eagles were able to exploit Syracuse's system. He was the knock down shooter it takes to beat the Orange, keeping BC within 3 at the half.
“He is a very good shooter. I don’t like to see him out there against us. He shoots the basketball extremely well,” said Boeheim.
The tide changed in the second half, though, as Syracuse’s shooting improved. Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, and Malachi Richardson helped Syracuse follow a 3-13 performance from long range in the first half, with an 8-10 showing in the second. This hot shooting helped them go on a 21-4 run after the Eagles took a 41-39 lead.
BC’s second half offense had to switch focus when Syracuse expanded the zone to focus on taking Milon out of the game. This gave Dennis Clifford the room to have a huge second half, finishing with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Milon drew a ton of attention but still pitched in 5 second half points, giving him a career high 25 points.
“We worked hard on moving to the right spots when the ball to the middle, and I thought he was there every time” said Jim Christian of his sharpshooters big night.
Christian also acknowledged the absences of Jerome Robinson and AJ Turner, “We had some guys who needed to step up tonight, because of our injuries, and they did not.” This statement has to be pointed toward Darryl Hicks, who is getting significant minutes for the first time in his career but committed two turnovers and failed to score on four attempts.
Ultimately, Syracuse's second half run --- immediately following BC gaining the lead --- knocked the wind out of the Eagles. “I’m just trying, especially with a lot of young guys, to get them to fiercely try to compete to the point where you are trying to beat the crap out of the other team no matter what the score is,” said Clifford on his attitude and role when this young team is in games. Despite their results, this Eagles team still has plenty of passion on the court.
Sammy Barnes-Thompkins hit his last four shots to finish with 11 points.
Ervins Meznieks couldn’t find the bottom of the net himself, but did a great job of passing against the zone. He finished with 5 assists and 0 turnovers.
Eli Carter was offensively ineffective, going 2-9 from the floor, 1-5 from 3, and had 3 turnovers to 1 assist.
The Eagles head south for a short two game road trip, beginning with Clemson (15-10, 8-5 ACC) Wednesday at 7 PM.