NEW YORK - Everything about Boston College's 71-64 loss to Purdue last night in the Preseason NIT was mental, but there was so much for the Eagles to think about.
First, there was the building.
It seemed as if it took forever just to get in.
It was about 5:30 p.m. and the Eagles were lined up single file at Madison Square Garden's employee entrance, waiting to get through the security checkpoint, teetering between nervousness and eagerness.
It wasn't the complete Garden experience. The crowd wasn't a constellation the way it was the night before when Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Q-Tip, and Julia Stiles showed up for the LeBron James circus when the Knicks hosted the Cavaliers. Instead, it was largely a scattered pack of Boilermakers' faithful.
But it was still MSG. It was still New York. The Eagles are still mostly underclassmen. So there were still some nerves. The ones that come with excitement. Tyrese Rice had been here before two years ago, when the Eagles lost to Michigan State.
"Everybody was ready," Rice said. "Everybody was excited to play. I just think maybe that excitement, maybe us being overly excited maybe affected us with the mental part of the game."
But even with the city's imposing aura, all the pressure was on the court. Purdue coach Matt Painter made sure his defense pumped it through the hardwood. The Boilermakers squeezed at Rice, hoping the pressure would trickle down.
"Their coach wanted him to have the ball at all times and didn't want him to come out of the game," said Purdue junior guard Keaton Grant. "We just wanted to pressure him as much as we can and wear him out."
It played into the head game.
Purdue (5-0) forced 16 turnovers (10 in the second half), and blocked six shots. And Grant (11 points), JaJuan Johnson (12), and E'Twaun Moore (a game-high 19) forced the issue at both ends of the court.
"They constantly put pressure on us," BC coach Al Skinner said. "They constantly kept their defense up, and because of that, we didn't show the patience that we needed and our internal clock, sometimes, it sped up."
That pressure was evident on a play early in the first half. Rice (17 points, 3 turnovers) was bringing the ball up court, and he yelled, "Power!" By the time he crossed halfcourt, he had to yell it again.
It wasn't that he called it twice, it was the way he repeated himself. He yelled it with the partly puzzled, partly frustrated tone you give people when they don't understand.
Two bobbled passes later, Rakim Sanders bounced a midrange jumper off the rim. The next possession he skipped an entry pass past Josh Southern in the post and out of bounds.
"I didn't think, at times, that we showed the patience that we needed on the offensive end," Skinner said.
Instead of letting the offensive system manufacture, Skinner said, "We tried to create offense and that really didn't work for us."
Rice described the Eagles' offense with one word: "Methodical."
"You have to be patient in it," Rice said. "You have to just wait for your turn, basically. [Skinner] talks about internal clock. He's just saying that some people are just a little bit too quick for offense and we're just not patient enough."
Part of it is trusting the system, but it's hard not to abandon it when turnovers are forced, shots are blocked, and the opponent is finishing fast breaks with dunks.
"The higher the defensive pressure, the faster your internal clock is," Rice said. "You could be standing there and if the guy is not really pressuring, then you're going to count slower. But if a guy is all in your face and he's all on you, then you're thinking, 'Uh-oh, he's up on me, I've got to hurry up and make something happen.' "
The Eagles trimmed a 15-point deficit to 6, but couldn't come up with enough baskets to get a win. The loss sets up a matchup with either Alabama-Birmingham tomorrow.
After watching his team drop consecutive road games against two quality teams, repeating a lot of the same mistakes in the process, Skinner said he needs to see his team focus away from The Heights.
"We've got to learn how to play on the road and win on the road," Skinner said. "This is a great environment to do that. I know we can win at home. But how are we going to win on the road? That's really what the challenge is for us."