On Wednesday night, Boston College men’s basketball’s biggest loss wasn’t the 71-62 final score against Nebraska, it was the sight of graduate transfer and team leader Teddy Hawkins limping out of the locker room at halftime on crutches.
With 7:45 left in the opening half and the Eagles (5-3) trailing by just three, Hawkins went down awkwardly in the paint, suffering a non-contact injury. He wouldn’t return, and despite the best efforts of BC’s capable backcourt and resilient bench, the Eagles faltered down the stretch.
Trailing by just two with nine minutes left on the clock, BC created plenty of good looks, but couldn’t get anything to fall. The host Huskers (6-2), desperate to help the Big Ten avoid further embarrassment in the annual conference challenge, proceeded to close out the game on a 16-9 run.
Jerome Robinson finished with 17 points, seven boards, and four assists, while Ky Bowman added an impressive line of 13 points, eight rebounds, and six dimes. Still, without guard Jordan Chatman due to an injury and the ensuing void from Hawkins, the shorthanded Eagles didn’t have enough firepower to rally.
Nebraska had eight different players score, showcasing plenty of depth. Isaac Copeland and James Palmer each scored 15 points, both featuring explosiveness at the rim as well as capable mid-range shooting. Evan Taylor poured on 13 points despite dealing with foul trouble, hitting all three 3-pointers that he attempted.
The Eagles had an inspired performance from Johncarlos Reyes in the loss, who crashed the glass heavily. Reyes pulled down nine boards in 17 minutes, creating plenty of second-chance opportunities for BC. He drew a pivotal charge early in the second to keep the Huskers within reach, then saved an offensive rebound from going out-of-bounds with a big hustle play.
Taylor and the Huskers were lights out from deep early, building an early seven-point lead as the Eagles struggled to identify shooters and close out. It seemed like BC would struggle even more after Hawkins left, but Robinson willed his team back into the game. He knocked down a 3-pointer off of an assist from Bowman and added a left-handed finish to cut the Huskers’ lead to three near the end of the half. But a costly turnover and a buzzer-beating corner 3-pointer from Glynn Watson Jr. stretched Nebraska’s lead to eight.
Throughout the second half, everytime BC scored, Nebraska had an answer. The Eagles’ backcourt set up Nik Popovic and Reyes for early points with slick passes, but Anton Gill knocked down his second 3-pointer of the night and Watson drilled a pull-up jumper.
BC began to exploit the Huskers’ poor pick-and-roll defense, as Robinson drove into the lane for a slick finish underneath, then kicked it out for Steffon Mitchell to hit the open three. However, Palmer ended a six-minute scoring drought with a jumper, and back-to-back travels on Reyes cost the Eagles valuable opportunities.
Bowman and Robinson traded points down the stretch, but Copeland and Palmer were equally hot. Palmer Euro stepped into an emphatic dunk, before hitting a high-arcing shot in the lane, while Copeland followed with an equally ferocious dunk over Eagles freshman Luka Kraljevic. A Bowman layup that cut the lead to 59-57 was as close as the Eagles would get, as the Palmer-led 8-0 run from the Huskers sealed the deal.
It was just the second loss on the night for the ACC in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. BC faced a tough test in playing without two starters for much of the game, and Robinson and Bowman simply weren’t enough to carry the Eagles past a much more balanced Nebraska lineup. Speculating about Hawkins’s injury isn’t the right thing to do, but without him, BC’s strong start to the season is just that. It’s the games that lie ahead that will shape the outlook on this season, with No. 1 Duke and a brutal ACC schedule looming.
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A “strong start to the season” against Maine, S. Carolina State, Sacred Heart,
Colgate and LaSalle isn’t very predictive for the Atlantic Coast Conference. The losses against Nebraska, Texas Tech and Providence might tell us a bit more together with a 6-48 ACC record over the past three seasons. Yes – Hawkins’ absence last night had an impact – but he was there for the other games. At some point – you have to look at the recruiting depth, shooting skills and constant defensive lapses. That is – if you want to remember that we are in the ACC.