The Boston College men’s basketball team fell apart in the second half of their Gotham Classic game against Belmont University Saturday afternoon in Conte Forum. The Eagles lost by a score of 100-85, with the Bruins leading by as many as 25 points at one point.
What started out as an extremely close, back-and-forth game between the two teams turned into three-point practice for Belmont. Belmont has been hitting the most Division One threes since the mid-90s, so the good news for BC is that they likely won’t face a better shooting team any time soon.
This game was all offense. BC started with big threes from Nik Popovic and Jared Hamilton, and Belmont responded with some of their own. In the first half, BC shot an impressive 50% from behind the arc and had an overall field goal percentage of 61%.
A block on Jay Heath was what Belmont needed to quiet a persistent BC offense early on. The Eagles wouldn’t score for a few possessions until Derryck Thornton racked up six points and a steal to reignite the offense.
Popovic and Thornton ran the offense throughout the first. Thornton ended with 15 points, seven assists, and two steals. Popovic was the player of the game for the Eagles, finishing with 23 points on over 70% shooting and five rebounds.
Thornton left the game and went to the locker room with a trainer after going down about halfway through the first half. It appeared to be a lower leg injury, as he limped halfway across the court, went down again, then limped right to the locker room.
Fortunately, the Eagles did not lose one of their most potent pieces of offense, as he returned to the game about two minutes later.
Belmont started to gain a little momentum toward the end of the first half, but BC adjusted and made smart basketball plays to prevent a complete takeover. Julian Rishwain drew an offensive foul to get the ball in BC’s hands and then on the other end, a pair of free throws from Popovic would put BC up one point with two minutes left in the half.
To close the half, the teams traded threes. Thornton turned over a critical possession for the Eagles, giving Belmont the last shot of the half. This was still a close game, however, as BC only trailed by four points at halftime.
To prove just how close this game was for a while, there were 16 lead changes in the first half. The second half had none, however, with Belmont leading the entire last 20 minutes.
The second half opened with some offense from BC; Heath chalked up the first points of the half, then Steffon Mitchell turned a three-point play after getting fouled at the basket.
BC started to get sloppy, fouling three times in the opening three minutes. Belmont earned 10 fast points to start the half, six of those being free thanks to BC fouls.
The Bruins would then go on a 13-6 run, not allowing any points from BC in three minutes to establish a solid lead.
Suddenly, every three-pointer began to fall for Belmont, giving them a 20-point lead just seven minutes into the second half.
The BC defense completely fell apart in the second half. Belmont would go on another run, this time 15-0. They were raining threes over BC’s heads and the Eagles were doing little to stop them.
Head Coach Jim Christian had strong words about this defensive performance after the game.
“This has everything to do with defense, especially individual defense,” said Christian. “Nobody played well [on defense].”
Just to prove that they could score whenever and wherever they want, a Belmont player tossed the ball behind his head under the basket and made a layup. Since BC clearly isn’t going to win shooting contests, they need to put more pressure on the defensive end when the offense isn’t happening.
Although Belmont easily ran away with the game in the second half, freshman Kamari Williams was a bright spot for the BC offense in the final few minutes of play. His pair of free throws and pair of threes closed Belmont’s lead to much smaller than it could’ve been (and was, at some points).
This was a tough game for BC and although they fall to a 3-1 record so far this season, they will look to improve in their final two Gotham Classic games.
The next game will be against Eastern Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m., again in Conte Forum.