No. 6 men’s basketball had their four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday by Boston College, falling 63-48 at Silvio O. Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The Cavaliers (21-5, 13-4 ACC) were second-best throughout most of the contest, as the Eagles (14-15, 8-10 ACC) held the lead for the final 30 minutes of action and never looked like giving it up.
Virginia, posting the ACC’s best scoring defense, may have expected to virtually shut down a Boston College team that entered Wednesday ranked 14th in the conference in points per game. But throughout the proceedings, the Eagles enjoyed plenty of offensive success.
Pairing that with a season-low 48 points, it would be hard to argue the Cavaliers got any less than what they deserved.
“I just think we got thoroughly outplayed,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “Credit to Boston College, they really played hard – they were physical offensively and defensively.”
Boston College connected on 10 of its first 16 field goal attempts, using multiple buckets from senior forward Quinten Post — who poured in 24 points when the two teams last met in January — and graduate student guard Makai Ashton-Langford to spurt out a prompt advantage.
The key to Virginia’s ability to even hang around in the game in the opening minutes was graduate student forward Jayden Gardner, who provided a seismic early push to partially neutralize what could only be described as a disappointing first-half performance.
Gardner scored eight of Virginia’s first 13 points of the contest, doing it in a variety of ways. The graduate student went inside for a layup before knocking down a pair of free throws and a couple of smooth turnaround jumpers from the middle of the floor. Gardner added a block and a steal to cap a torrid first nine minutes.
But midway through the first half, the Eagles brought the forward’s production to a relative halt. Gardner did not score another point in the period after his jumper with 12:58 remaining, and the Cavaliers as a team managed only eight points in that same timeframe.
The virtual silence on Virginia’s side of the floor allowed Boston College to build on their lead, which rose as high as nine after a two pointer from junior guard DeMarr Langford Jr. sent the Eagles up 26-17 with 2:43 to play. The triple also capped an 11-2 run for the hosts.
A layup by graduate student guard Kihei Clark shrunk the deficit to seven at halftime, but the Cavaliers were on upset alert yet again. Having shot just 27.6 percent from the field in the first half, the visitors would have felt lucky to even be within a few possessions. Much of that was thanks to 11 Boston College turnovers in the opening period of play.
Unfortunately for Virginia, things did not get much better when they emerged from the break.
Despite Gardner rediscovering his success from early in the first half – to the tune of eight more points in 10 minutes — the Cavaliers simply didn’t do enough to keep pace with the Eagles. Led by Post, Boston College ticked their advantage up to as many as 13 points in the opening portion of the period.
When a pair of three-pointers within 42 seconds from freshman guard Isaac McKneely brought the contest back within nine points, a few nerves resided inside Silvio O. Conte Forum. But the Eagles put those away quickly, weathering the storm once again behind sophomore guard Jaeden Zackery.
Having only scored two points in the first matchup with Virginia, Zackery had a point to prove. That much was on full display as the guard sank two treys and added multiple baskets inside the paint to put Boston College back up by 12.
Zackery’s exploits were the nail in the coffin for the Cavaliers, who never got back within single-digits after his final three-pointer with 7:56 left. The Eagles coasted to an all-too-comfortable victory to snap their four-game losing streak against Virginia, flooding the court and handing the Cavaliers their lone double-digit loss in the process.
After squeaking by Louisville and Notre Dame by a combined five points in their previous two games, Virginia learned its lesson tonight. It went wrong in many respects, but the guard play is what hurt Bennett’s team the most.
Clark, McKneely, senior guard Armaan Franklin and junior guard Reece Beekman combined to make just nine of their 37 field goal attempts on the night. The quadrant tallied only 23 points despite pouring in 48 combined against Boston College less than a month ago.
“We have not shot the ball well, whether it’s finishing or sometimes even at the free-throw line,” Bennett said. “We’ve got to find a way to get outta some of the shooting slumps and be ready start to finish.”
Gardner was the lone bright spot for the Cavaliers, chipping in with 16 points to register the only double-figure scoring night for Virginia. The graduate student has paced the Cavaliers in scoring in four of his last seven contests, proving to be a pivotal piece for a team that could have easily added a few more games in the loss column if not for his standout efforts.
To that point, Virginia’s offense has slowed down noticeably across the last few weeks. The Cavaliers have now failed to reach 70 points in each of their last seven games, having done so six consecutive times to begin the season.
Virginia’s stellar defensive abilities are enough to weather a poor offensive performance on most nights, but when it gets as bad as it did Wednesday, that is a tall order even for a Bennett-led squad. Whether it’s relying more heavily on Gardner or simply producing more efficient offense, something needs to change for the Cavaliers — and quickly.
“They put us on our heels,” Bennett said. “We have to learn from that because of what we have coming up.”
The Cavaliers will look to rebound Saturday when they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. for a matchup with North Carolina. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. and is set to be broadcasted on ESPN.