Top Story, Men's Basketball

Bacon, Florida State Rout Eagles in Blowout Victory

With seven minutes remaining in Monday night’s game, Florida State guard C.J. Walker drove to his left off of a screen. The freshman stumbled, sliding on the floor toward the sideline. Deftly keeping his dribble alive with his left hand, Walker noticed Jordan Chatman lunging out for a steal. Rather casually, he switched the ball to his right hand and pirouetted around Chatman, treating the graduate transfer like an orange cone in a personal workout. Driving into the paint, Walker finished a high-arcing floater over the outstretched arms of Johncarlos Reyes.

As his teammates leapt to their feet, awed at the deceptive ease with which the freshman guard had danced to the basket, and reporters rushed to tweet about the #SCTop10 play they had just witnessed, Boston College head coach Jim Christian gazed ahead with a thousand-yard stare. The look of resignation on his face spoke volumes about the utter helplessness he had to have felt during the course of the contest, watching the Seminoles rampage up the floor play after play.

In the team’s largest defeat of the season, the Eagles fell 104-72 to No. 19 FSU (22-6, 10-5 Atlantic Coast) on Monday night, extending their losing streak to 11 games. The contest marked the first time BC (9-19, 2-13) allowed an opponent to score over 100 points since a 106-74 defeat against North Carolina in Feb. 2011. FSU ended a two-game losing streak with the victory.

“That’s how you’re supposed to play after losing two straight,” Christian told reporters after the game. “They weren’t going to be stopped tonight.”

Virtually nothing went right for the Eagles on a night in which they never held a lead in the game. The Seminoles outscored BC 52-16 in the paint, 22-7 in points off of turnovers, and, most distressingly, a whopping 59-2 in bench points. The 13 FSU players who saw action in the game all scored at least four points, with none needing to play more than 26 minutes.

FSU’s first three baskets served as a microcosm of the Eagles’ complete inability to protect the paint. With Mo Jeffers suffering from an illness, freshman Nik Popovic received his first career start. To say things started poorly for the Bosnian freshman would be an understatement. On the offensive end, he badly missed two jumpers, BC’s first two shots of the night. And on the other end of the floor, he allowed FSU’s Michael Ojo—a 305-pound behemoth who wears size-21 shoes—to score two layups right at the rim, with little resistance.

On the Seminoles’ next possession, junior point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes drove towards the right side of the court. As he neared the sideline, he rifled a pass to a cutting Jonathan Isaac, who had slipped past A.J. Turner, as the sophomore wing got caught watching the ball. The highly-touted freshman forward reached back and threw down a thunderous dunk, one of 11 that the Seminoles had during the game.

Throughout the first half, in which the Eagles were outscored 55-31, they routinely allowed FSU players a free path to the basket. Isaac alone had three dunks on plays where he cut to the basket without any resistance. These baskets owed a lot to the Seminoles’ superior ball movement, as they racked up 26 assists on 39 baskets, committing just eight turnovers in the process.

Rathan-Mayes served as the catalyst for this attack, finishing the game with 10 assists and zero turnovers. The junior guard frequently manipulated the Eagles’ defense on pick and rolls, working his way into the middle of the lane, where he used his excellent court vision to create lob dunks and find open shooters in the corner. While BC defenders often helped too far from the weak side corner, turning those mistakes into threes still required perfect passing to allow the shooter to get a clean look before his defender could recover. Buoyed by their point guard’s uncanny ability, the Seminoles made 11 of their first 19 3-pointers.

“He’s the straw that stirs the drink for them,” Christian said of Rathan-Mayes.

On the other end of the floor, the Seminoles—the ACC’s fastest team in conference play per—applied pressure on the Eagles as they brought the ball up. While Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson did their best, the strategy frequently led to rushed shots and turnovers, which fueled the Seminoles explosive fastbreak game. Dwayne Bacon—who led the team with 16 points and surpassed 1,000 points in his FSU career during the game—threw down a nasty dunk after a Garland Owens turnover late in the first half.

Hamilton’s exceedingly deep rotation made all of this possible, as 12 Seminoles played at least four minutes in the first half, even before the game became an obvious blowout. By the time Hamilton removed Isaac, Bacon and Rathan-Mayes with 12 minutes remaining in the game, FSU held an unassailable 79-49 advantage. From there, the contest essentially turned into a showcase for the Seminoles bench, including 7-foot-4 sophomore Christ Koumadje—the tallest student athlete in FSU history.

There were a few bright spots during the game for the Eagles. A.J. Turner rebounded from a deep slump, scoring 13 points and shooting without hesitation. Bowman tallied his second double-double of the season, scoring 24 points and hauling in 11 rebounds. Shooting 10-for-17 from the floor, the freshman guard showcased an improving mid-range jumper on pick and rolls where the Seminoles’ big man dropped below the foul line. He is now averaging nine rebounds per game over his last three contests, helping BC’s undersized frontcourt immensely.

But on the whole, this game represents a low point for the team, which was coming off of two straight games in which it had held a first-half lead of at least nine points. The most disappointing aspect of the game was the fact that BC didn’t look competitive for large stretches of the night. While the Seminoles clearly boast superior talent, that doesn’t excuse the parade to the rim that the Eagles allowed.

Heading into the team’s final three games of the season, BC is clearly seeking a spark, similar to the one it found in its two conference victories back in early January. The common theme in those two games—unlike in virtually all of the games during the losing streak—was consistent effort for the full 40 minutes. Perhaps it really is as simple as that. And for Christian, he can only hope his squad can find that level once again.

Featured Image by Mark Wallheiser / AP Photo

February 20, 2017