ANAHEIM, Calif. - Youth will likely be a seasonlong issue for Boston College and its nine freshmen.
That much was clear before the start of the season, and that is the case six games in. So through the turnovers, inconsistencies, and inability at times to execute offensively, coach Steve Donahue is looking for effort.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign yesterday against New Mexico came during a nine-minute stretch in the second half, when the Eagles reduced a 22-point deficit to 8 with 4:38 to play.
Unable to narrow that gap further, however, BC suffered a 75-57 consolation loss to close out the 76 Classic at Anaheim Convention Center.
The Eagles (2-4), who won one of three tournament games, head home for a game Wednesday against Penn State.
Yesterday, they were bullied inside by Drew Gordon, who muscled his way to 21 points (9-of-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds, despite BC sending a double team to swarm the brawny 6-foot-9-inch forward each time he got the ball.
The Eagles also were beaten on the boards, 37-24, and outscored in the paint, 30-20.
BC stood less of a chance because of its offensive woes, shooting 35.1 percent (20 of 57) from the field and 34.6 percent (9 of 26) from behind the arc.
But the Eagles ripped off a 20-6 run to close within 62-54. New Mexico had half of its 16 turnovers during that stretch.
After a timeout, New Mexico’s Demetrius Walker scored on a two-handed dunk, then found Gordon underneath for a basket that pushed the lead back to double digits.
Eagles freshman guard Patrick Heckmann was stripped on his way to the basket, but Ryan Anderson countered by swatting a Gordon hook shot. Moments later, Gordon drew a foul on a two-handed stuff and completed the 3-point play to put his team ahead, 69-54, with 1:45 to play.
“I think that’s something that we can grow upon - they didn’t quit, they played hard,’’ Donahue said of his team.
“I thought we were really causing a lot of turnovers on a good team by playing our 1-3-1, and we just gave it a great effort. Never quit. We were down 22 and cut it to 8. That’s something that we’re going to have to do, unfortunately, quite a bit this year, is never give up. And when things aren’t going right, try to find a way. And I think our team did that.’’
BC never led and found itself behind at halftime, 41-25, after New Mexico’s Hugh Greenwood drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Lobos (4-2) had clear halftime advantages in points in the paint (16-4) and points off turnovers (10-1), and finished the game shooting 56.9 percent (29 of 51) from the field.
They also distributed the ball more effectively, doling out 24 assists to the Eagles’ 13.
“Our offensive execution is way behind where it needs to be,’’ Donahue said. “It’s not even fair to judge these guys for the situation they’re in. There’s no real guys that have been through this. The offense is haphazard at times. It’s not crisp, it’s not executed like it has [to be], and that leads to poor shots. But I think they’re trying.’’
Junior Matt Humphrey (3-of-18 shooting) and reserve freshman Lonnie Jackson (4 for 8, 3 of 4 on 3-pointers) led BC with 12 points apiece. Gabe Moton added 10 points and four rebounds.
Anderson had 5 points (on 2-of-11 shooting), a team-high 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. His biggest contribution came during the rally, when he curled around Gordon to find Jackson underneath for a scoop that cut it to 62-48.
“Every day we’re coming out, we’re working hard, and we’re trying to compete and grow each day like coach says,’’ Jackson said.
“It’s not going to be easy, we all realize that. So we’re taking it one step at a time and just trying to improve each game and each practice.’’
Added Donahue: “It was another step in a learning experience in trying to figure out how to get better.
“I don’t think we competed enough in the first half. I thought we did in the second half. But the kids played hard - just not a lot of execution. But right now, I’m judging by effort and I thought we did a good job in that vein.’’