1 2 FThe Story...
Northern Iowa 38 43 81
Boston College 41 28 69
Unfortunately for the Eagles it was the same story. Reggie Jackson and Biko Paris struggled to contain the perimeter players for the Panthers, Joe Trapani and Josh Southern got into foul trouble covering for them as a result, and the Eagles simply couldn't get stops when they needed them to try and steal a game from a team that clearly superior. The Panthers shot the lights out from the field, Kwadzo Ahelegbe in particular was completely unguardable for Northern Iowa, going 14-17 from the field for a game high 32 points. Despite the insane shooting for the Panthers the Eagles still held a slim halftime lead. Eventually though, the Eagles depth and fouls became an issue, resulting in BC not being able to put enough bodies on the floor who could put the ball in the basket. The Panthers stayed hot the majority of the afternoon and cruised to an 81-69 win.
By the Numbers...
65...The percentage that Northern Iowa shot from the field for the game. This is an absolutely disgraceful percentage if you're a BC player. The defense was completely non-existent on the perimeter and allowed Northern Iowa's guards to go anywhere they wanted with the ball. There was never a point in the game where the Panthers were pressured into a shot that they didn't want. It was a terrible effort and sadly, pretty typical of the talent on the floor.
77...The percentage shot by Northern Iowa's leading scorer Kwadzo Ahelegbe. Kwadzo's shooting was the most glaring example of how bad the Eagles defense was on the day. He was not exceptionally hot while making ridiculous shots. In fact most his shots were either layups, dunks, open jumpers, or simple 2 dribble drive pull-ups. This was illustrated by the mere 3 three pointers taken. Though to be fair, Kwadzo did make all 3.
14...The number of offensive rebounds for the Eagles. One of the few bright spots for the team to this point has been the rebounding. Faced with the same size and athleticism issues they had last season, it was tough to imagine they'd be any better on the glass. But it's been quite the opposite. BC has rebounded very well this season and has out-rebounded every opponent so far.
Sticking with this theme for just a moment. You have to give the BC some front line some credit. Northern Iowa missed just 19 shots in the entire game and yet BC still out-rebounded them 31-20. Joe Trapani led the way with 7 boards and Reggie Jackson continued his assault on the glass, pulling in 6. Jackson still leads the team on the boards, averaging 7.5 per game.
Raji turned in his best game of the season dropping a season high 18 points on 7-13 shooting. Raji was, and continues to be the only acceptable perimeter defender for the Eagles. He moves his feet well and keeps his man in front of him, and is a still a big time threat to block shots from the weak side or on the break with his athleticism. When Raji has his jumper working, he can be the best player on this team.
A lot of people will point to the absence of Rakim Sanders (ankle) as the reason that this team is struggling. But what Sanders brings to the table, is not what the Eagles are missing. In fact, Sanders may be the worst defender on the team. Only Raji has continued to put in the defensive effort necessary to contain even slightly above average guards and quick forwards. The more I see of this team, the more convinced I am that their defensive shortcomings will torpedo the season.
Three Point Shooting
The three ball is such a major part of college basketball these days, and often times when a game is tight or at least competitive, it can often come down to which team makes its shots from deep and which team struggles from there. The Panthers took fewer (9) and made more (5) resulting in fewer missed opportunities in a game in which neither team played exceptional defensively. Northern Iowa exploited BC's weaknesses better than BC did Northern Iowa's.
The Eagles are off now until Saturday when they travel to Providence for a battle with Keno Davis and the Fryars. In between now and then, Al Skinner and his team need to decide whether or not they're willing to commit to getting better defensively, or if they're just satisfied with being competitive as an above average offensive team. Playing the way they have to this point is simply unacceptable. Allowing any player to shoot 14-17 from the field without taking hardly a single contested shot is an indicator that this team is simply not trying on that end of the field. I'd love to see Corey Raji or Joe Trapani stand up and say 'enough is enough' and try and get the team to commit to getting better. Looking ahead (@Providence, @Michigan, vs. Miami), there is a real chance that this team could be 3-5 before getting back to the cupcake portion of the schedule. If they harbor any dreams of an NCAA Tournament berth, they'd better get it together now.