The only thing Boston College coach Jim Christian could do to stop Syracuse from using the rims like pull-up bars was call a timeout. It all started when Michael Gbinije sneaked around an Eagle defender, found a sliver of daylight to use as a launching pad, and flushed a two-handed slam.
Then Kaleb Joseph got in on the action, getting by his man with a quick first step before using the free throw lane like a runway for another loud jam.
Next Gbinije sawed through the heart of BC’s defense, muscled up a layup that didn’t go, strong-armed the offensive rebound, and then muscled up another layup that fell.
Christian’s breaking point came when Joseph snagged a loose ball from Dennis Clifford, raced the other way with nothing but the rim in front of him, and ripped down another two-handed dunk, spinning off the rim and flexing on his way back on defense with the Orange ahead, 60-50.
In a matter of three minutes — and three emphatic throwdowns — BC’s battle with Syracuse shifted from a defensive standoff to an Orange dunk contest.
Christian called the timeout to stop the 10-6 run from mushrooming into something worse.
But he may as well have called it just to pull the plug on what ended up being a 70-56 loss.
“We stopped playing,” Christian said. “We basically stopped playing. We stopped guarding. They got layups. We were awful in transition defense.’’
The timeout wasn’t to send a message. To Christian it was already clear.
“They know,” Christian said. “They know. It was way before that. I mean, that game was over at that point.”
The way the Orange ran away with things was practically deja vu from last Saturday when North Carolina broke the Eagles with a 13-4 second-half run.
Or the 9-4 run that Louisville used to hush the Eagles two weeks ago.
“I just think that’s been the story for us all season,” said Aaron Brown, who finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Syracuse walked out of Conte Forum with its first win since announcing a postseason ban on Feb. 5 for self-reported athletic department violations dating to 2007, and for as close as they kept things for much of the night, the Eagles ate their fifth straight loss.
It took all of 47 seconds for Christian to call his first timeout.
Syracuse came out of the gates gunning with Trevor Cooney knocking down a 3-pointer for its first bucket of the night. Then, as the Eagles tried to navigate the Orange’s 2-3 zone, Gbinije snatched a pass that Patrick Heckmann tried to float over the defense and broke away for an easy layup and a 5-0 lead.
The Eagles took a second to regroup from the quick 1-2 punch, then scored the next 8 points.
But Syracuse absorbed the burst and responded by firing away from long distance. Five of Syracuse’s first nine field goals came from beyond the arc.
The Orange shot 11 for 24 in the first half, while the Eagles struggled to find quality shots let alone make them (8 of 26 from the floor).
Olivier Hanlan missed five of his first seven shots for BC, but he came alive in the second half, scoring 11 of his 16 points.
But watching his team wilt under pressure again left Christian seemingly at his wit’s end.
“You have to have more invested,” Christian said. “That’s the bottom line. I said it last game. It’s the same story every game. The less you have invested, the easier it is to give in. That’s the bottom line.
“I hate to say it, but for me, it’s eye-opening as we move forward with our program, we have to have guys who have more invested in winning, in doing what it takes year-round to be a good basketball player at this level, because you’re playing against guys who, every single day, wake up and challenge themselves to the highest level.”