Men's Basketball

Notebook: Low Turnover Rate, Strong Interior Play Pay Dividends Against Maine

In last season’s opener, Boston College men’s basketball was upset by Nicholls State after allowing more than 40 points in the first half. The Eagles went on to finish the season a disappointing 9-23, with just two wins coming in ACC play. With the season approaching, fans hoped that things wouldn’t get out of hand in the same way they did just a year ago, especially after both A.J. Turner and Mike Sagay left the team via transfer.

The hype surrounding BC prior to this year’s season opener against Maine pertained to their play at the guard position. Sophomore Ky Bowman and junior Jerome Robinson headline what many basketball pundits are calling one of the best backcourts in the NCAA this season. The two were the only returning starters from that game against Nicholls State, and looked for a different game outcome this time around.

While both players had great performances, it was the big men on the roster that guided the Eagles (1-0) to a 85-65 drubbing of the Black Bears (0-1). The victory was expected, but as evidenced by last year’s non-conference slate, anything could have happened.

Three Up

1)  The Frontcourt

The focus coming into the game may have been on the two star guards, but by the end of it, much of the praise went to the big men. The Eagles outrebounded the Black Bears 51-32, mostly due to the high motor of Teddy Hawkins. The graduate transfer from Illinois State came up big in his first game in a BC uniform, tallying an astounding 15 boards. Seven of the rebounds came on the offensive end, and one was put back for a last-second score in the first half, giving the junior nine points at the break.

BC got its fair share of blocks throughout the game as well. Nik Popovic and Johncarlos Reyes each finished the game with a pair of blocks. Popovic’s rejections came within a minute of each other in the first half. The 6-foot-11 center made his towering presence known throughout the game, and forced the Black Bears to look outside the paint for scoring opportunities.

2) Running the Floor

BC did a great job keeping a quick rhythm on offense. Maine found itself with a surprising six-point lead less than five minutes into the game, but the Eagles were able to find fast points without panicking. BC needed an average of just 16 seconds on their scoring possessions—an impressively low number considering the team had so few fastbreak points early on.

The Eagles used a variety of scoring mechanisms to get the ball into the net in such a short amount of time. Screens from Popovic at the top of the key led to easy pick-and-roll plays in the opening minutes. BC also created opportunities by letting its guards simply drive to the hoop. A key example of this came with just under 10 minutes left in the first half: Robinson used a great pump fake to get by a Maine defender for a shifty reverse lay-up.

3) Low Turnover Rate

By the end of the game, BC only coughed up eight turnovers, and only one came off a steal by the Black Bears. The Eagles did a great job controlling their ball movement throughout the game, aside from Bowman’s attempt at two flashy passes that both ended up out of bounds. Lots of passes in transition led to open shots on the perimeter. In such a high-scoring affair, the fundamentals of the game often are left behind, so the Eagles ability to manage their possessions was a real testament to their offensive discipline.  

Three Down

1) Defending Perimeter Shots

BC’s failure to knock down long-range shots (4-of-18) was one thing. But the real problem was the Eagles’ inability to take Maine off the 3-point line. As the underdog, it made a lot of sense for the Black Bears to rely on the 3-point shot, in order to keep the game close. They took a remarkable 32 shots behind the arc, sinking 11. Their first four buckets were all 3-point shots, failing to make a 2-point field goal through the first seven minutes of the game. Although Maine only nailed around 35 percent of their triples, most of its misses came on open looks. BC’s failure to close out on and handful of open looks is definitely a cause for concern. Maine didn’t do much against a lackadaisical 3-point defense, but better teams certainly will.

2) Bench Scoring

In the first half, head coach Jim Christian only checked in two non-starters, and they combined for all of two points. Despite losing by a significant margin, Maine actually outscored BC’s bench, 21-18. Excluding the 10-point outburst in the second half from Reyes, the Eagles’ bench logged a mere two field goals—both coming from Vin Baker Jr., who scored his first career points in garbage time. It would have been nice to see some of the younger players get experience early on in the season in a game that had been won well before the final buzzer.

3) Bowman Taking Falls

Bowman had a tremendous second half, in which he scored 14 of his 18 points, but fans may not get to see much more of him if he keeps up his aggressive play. On two separate occasions the sophomore drove to the basket and came down hard. In the first half, BC fans were heard gasping after Bowman hit the deck. Stunned momentarily, those in Conte Forum were fortunate to avoid witnessing a Gordon Hayward-esque sequence of events. Whether it was a case of Bowman getting attacked underneath, or simply that his basketball shoes have yet to lose their waxy sole this early in the season, the plays were season-threatening. The health of Bowman is imperative to the Eagles if they want to make waves in the ACC this year.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

November 11, 2017