Top Story, Men's Basketball

After Slow Start, Eagles Flip Switch in Second Half Against Sacred Heart

Last season, Boston College men’s basketball’s Jerome Robinson went on a tear in nonconference play. The Raleigh, N.C. native logged nine 20-point games, and quickly established himself as one of the ACC’s premier scorers. One performance, in particular, stood apart from the rest: Robinson’s career-best 32-point outing against Sacred Heart. He shot 11-of-20 from the field, and drained 9-of-11 from the charity stripe.

On Tuesday night, he got another look at the Pioneers. Only this time, he didn’t play the best game of his career—in fact, he probably played his worst. Right from the get-go, Robinson looked out of sorts. The junior’s shot selection was questionable to say the least. Drive after drive, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard came up short at the rim. He was just as inept from outside, missing four of his five 3-point attempts. By the game’s end, Robinson was a mere 1-of-14 from the floor, marking the first time he’s finished with one field goal or less since his freshman season.

“He’s not going to go 1-of-14 on many nights,” head coach Jim Christian told reporters in the postgame press conference. “But if he went 1-of-14 in past seasons, we’d have lost.”

In Robinson’s other two single-field goal games, the Eagles not only lost, but were run out the gym. But this time, they flipped the script. Teddy Hawkins, Steffon Mitchell, and Ky Bowman picked up the slack from Robinson, and BC rode a dominant second half to a 73-53 victory.

Just like the previous two games, the Eagles (3-0) fell behind early. And it wasn’t because of the 3-point ball. Sacred Heart (0-2) was attacking the interior at will. All of a sudden, BC—a team that terrorized both Maine and South Carolina State in the paint—looked vulnerable inside. Joseph Lopez, who scored 16 points in last year’s meeting, led the charge. The senior went to town on Eagles center Nik Popovic, especially down low. Lopez started off 3-of-3, and the Pioneers as a whole sunk their first six shots. Down 13-5, a visibly frustrated Christian called a timeout.

Soon after play resumed, BC started to find its rhythm. Following a Bowman layup, Hawkins drilled back-to-back 3-pointers, tying the game at 13. But Sacred Heart wasn’t going away anytime soon. The Pioneers answered with a 12-2 run of their own, drilling a couple shots from beyond the arc in the process. Once again, it was up to Hawkins to bring BC back from the dead.

The 6-foot-8 stretch four dialed up three jumpers during the final six minutes of play, including his third 3-pointer of the night. Still trailing by three, Bowman netted a mid-range shot before the half to make it a one-point game, heading into the break.

After intermission, the sophomore picked up right where he left off. Bowman scored or assisted on nine of the Eagles’ first 11 second-half points. The stretch culminated in an electric dunk—his first of the season. Bowman crossed up his defender at the top of the key, sprinted into the paint, and threw down a one-handed slam. The former All-ACC Freshman gave his team a four-point lead, all while jumpstarting the entire offense.

BC started the second half on a 25-8 run. Hawkins continued to outwork everyone on the court, whether he was in the post or out on the perimeter. And Mitchell began to fill the stat sheet. Aggressive on both ends of the floor, the freshman tallied nine rebounds and drew four fouls on his way to the hoop. Overall, the Eagles shot 42.9 percent from the field in the second half—6.5 percent better than they did in the first.

Sacred Heart also looked like a changed team. Unfortunately for head coach Anthony Latina, the new look was for the worse. The Pioneers only made seven of their 30 second-half shots, and no longer owned the interior.

Toward the end of the game, Hawkins came dangerously close to matching his career high in points scored. The graduate transfer from Illinois State knocked down another jumper from the right block, giving him 22 on the night—two shy of his personal best. Vin Baker Jr. and fellow freshman Luka Kraljevic saw some major minutes in the final stretch, and the Eagles closed out their third-consecutive 20-plus-point victory.

BC may have finished with just five turnovers—about 10 less than it averaged last season—but the Eagles’ offense was far from flawless. Christian’s team was outrebounded, 51-38, shot below 45 percent from the field, and got out to another slow start. Saturday could very well be a wake up call. BC can’t afford to stutter out of the gate again, especially against a team like Texas Tech—one that that is poised to make an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Featured Image by Jake Evans / Heights Staff

November 14, 2017

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