Top Story, Men's Basketball

Second Half Explosion Fuels Upset Victory Over Providence

A.J. Turner uncomfortably dribbled the ball at the top of the key as the shot clock wound down with just over one minute remaining in the game. What had just been a 20-point lead for Boston College men’s basketball was down to only eight. The Eagles had attempted just two shots since Providence applied a full court press following the final media timeout.

As Turner controlled the ball with his back to the basket, suffocating defense by the Friars forced him to desperately fling the ball out to Jerome Robinson on the wing as the shot clock hit two seconds. As soon as Robinson caught it, he threw it up from a step beyond the 3-point line with a defender in his face. The ball hit the backboard, and fell—a dagger with a dose of luck. Finally, the Eagles put the game out of reach.

“When I let it go, I thought there was no way this might be going in,” Robinson said. “But if it did, the only way would be if it hit the backboard.”

For the second time this season, BC proved that it has the ability to beat a major conference team when it plays to its potential. The Eagles used a dominant second half performance to upset the Friars at Conte Forum, 79-67, in their last game before ACC play begins on New Year’s Day. BC won by shooting 71 percent in the second half while maintaining a balanced attack—five players reached double digits, the most in a single game for BC this year.

Before the Eagles (7-6) exploded offensively, they had their hardships in the first half. Entering Friday’s game, Providence (10-3) held opposing teams to a mere 58.9 points per game. The Friars’ guards double-teamed BC on the perimeter, deflecting several passes and making Robinson and Ky Bowman uneasy. The Eagles shot just 34 percent from the field in the first half, and had nine turnovers. As the players entered the locker room, the Friars held a 29-25 advantage for Jim Christian’s squad.

The Friars raced out to a 38-31 lead in the first two and a half minutes of the second half. But after combining for just two points in the first half, Robinson and Bowman took over. Bowman exploded for nine points in the first five minutes of the second half as BC rallied to tie the game. Bowman finished 7-for-7 from the field in the second half as he tallied 16 points. Robinson went 6-for-8 in the second half, and finished the game with 21 points and eight assists.

“It has been fun watching Ky and Jerome develop,” Christian said. “Eventually they are going to be one of the better backcourts in the league.”

Bowman brought the Eagles’ faithful to their feet as he took it coast to coast to put BC up 45-44 with 11:52 remaining. Bowman buckled a Friar defender in transition with his shifty handles, and then finished the basket while drawing the foul. BC used the energy of the crowd to carry it on a 25-6 scoring run to extend the lead to 70-50. The Eagles turned the game into a track meet, running the floor and turning forced turnovers into transition buckets. BC’s half-court zone resulted in the Friars taking several deep 3-pointers. PC was just 2-for-14 from the 3-point line in the second half.

“I thought all game we guarded very well, we had few defensive breakdowns,” Christian said. “Our team showed great resiliency.”

The Eagles’ lead wasn’t safe for long, though. Providence head coach Ed Cooley, a former assistant for BC, had his team apply a full-court press out of the last media timeout. PC used its stifling defense to quickly force five turnovers, which powered an electric 14-0 run. With 2:09 remaining in the game, BC held a 70-64 advantage as the Providence fans hollered out a “Let’s Go Friars” chant.

But the Eagles backcourt responded. Bowman drained a crucial bucket with 1:53 remaining before Robinson hit his acrobatic triple to put the game out of reach. While the Eagles came out on top by 12 points and played one of their best games of the season, their near-collapse in the waning minutes is hard to overlook.

The Eagles’ Achilles heels throughout this season have been turnovers and free throws. Despite their terrific performance, they shot just 8-for-15 from the free throw line and turned the ball over 18 times. In the postgame press conference, Christian noted that they shot nearly the same percentage from 3-point land (52.4 percent) and the free throw line (53.3 percent). That stat was hard for Christian to comprehend.

With that being said, BC proved today that it might have what it takes to compete in the ACC. The Eagles’ big men stepped up, as Mo Jeffers led the way with 13 points and nine rebounds. Jordan Chatman provided efficient shooting off the bench with 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting from long distance. BC will have great momentum moving into league play, as it takes an eight-day break for the holidays.

“It will be great to be home, and watch some game tape to see what we need to do when ACC play comes around,” Robinson said.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

December 23, 2016