Top Story, Men's Basketball

Men’s Basketball Upsets No. 1 Duke

Boston College men’s basketball looked like a different team on Saturday afternoon against Duke. For the first time all year, the Eagles donned all-gray uniforms with the Boston skyline resting above the nameplate and bordering the trim of the shorts. But, more importantly, BC’s offense resembled the group that gave top-tier ACC opponents fits last winter—a run-and-gun unit driven by perimeter shooting.

Entering the weekend, the Eagles’ 3-point percentage was hovering just around 32 percent. Plain and simple, they had little to no luck finding a rhythm from downtown throughout the first month of the season, especially against Power Five teams. In fact, BC shot a combined 7-of-41 from 3-point land against Texas Tech and Nebraska.

“We’re a good 3-point shooting team, and we just have not been shooting the ball well,” head coach Jim Christian said. “I knew it was going to happen. These kids work too hard, they’re good shooters, they were going to have a breakout game.”

A breakout game might be an understatement. Behind Ky Bowman, Jerome Robinson, and Jordan Chatman, BC knocked down a season-high 15 triples, including 11 in the first half alone, en route to a 89-84 victory—the program’s third win over the Blue Devils and third-straight victory over an AP No. 1 team.

Within seconds of tip-off, No. 1 Duke (11-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) established its inside presence. The combination of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. gave the Eagles fits. Following a BC (7-3, 1-0) dead ball turnover, Carter Jr. attacked the paint and tried to lay one in, but his shot was off the mark. Without hesitation, his fellow freshman corralled the offensive board and finished for the easy two. On Duke’s next possession, the Blue Devils went back to Carter Jr., only this time he flushed it at the rim. Without graduate transfer Teddy Hawkins, who was diagnosed with a season-ending knee injury on Wednesday, the Eagles’ overmatched frontcourt was limited—not only defensively, but also scoring the basketball.

As a result, BC turned to the 3-point shot—or Bowman, to be more specific. The sophomore recorded nine of the Eagles’ first 10 points, drilling three treys from the wing. He finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and one assist shy of a triple-double, single-handedly keeping his team afloat in the early going, working the offensive glass and doing all he could to pull the Blue Devils off the 3-point line.

Bowman’s shooting spree was contagious—it was only a matter of time before the point guard got some help offensively. Both Chatman and Robinson got going from beyond the arc, in large part due to good ball movement and second-chance scoring opportunities. For a while, every shot was falling. Nik Popovic even got in on the fun. The 6-foot-11 center, who was routinely shut down in the paint throughout the first half, pulled up from the top of the key, netting his first 3-pointer of the season.

But just as BC started to heat up, so did Duke. The two teams traded baskets, leading up to the break. Whenever another Eagle would hit a jumpshot, Grayson Allen or Gary Trent Jr. would answer. Yet with a few minutes remaining in the period, BC made its move.

Coming out of a timeout, Steffon Mitchell received the inbound pass, and immediately motioned toward the right corner of the court. But rather than swinging the ball to Robinson, he made the split-section decision to launch a shot of his own. The ball rattled in, jumpstarting a mini 11-5 run. Moments later, Chatman knocked down an off-balanced 3-pointer with two Blue Devils in his face to put BC up six. Thanks to a Bowman layup in the final minute of the frame, the Eagles went into the half, leading, 48-41.

Chatman didn’t miss a beat. Right off the bat, the junior hit another long-range shot—his fifth of the game—to start the second period. Then, for the first time all game, Popovic got the best of Bagley III. He backed into the NBA prospect, and laid in a turnaround jump hook.

Down 10, the Blue Devils were starting to let the game slip away. But before things could really spiral out of control, Allen converted an Eagles turnover into a coast-to-coast dunk. Soon after, Bagley III and Allen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit to four. Once again, the game turned into a shooting contest.

Bowman and Robinson put the team on their back down the stretch, just like they did at Hartford. Over the course of five minutes, the guards accounted for all 11 of BC’s points. Per usual, the two were in tune, at one point even dialing up an alley-oop dunk. Bowman gracefully floated the ball for Robinson, cutting to the hoop off the screen for the jam.

But Duke wasn’t slowing down anytime soon, and a couple of Trent Jr. shots later, the Blue Devils held a four-point lead with three and a half minutes to go. On the ensuing possession, Robinson pumped faked the 3-point shot, getting his defender to bite. With open space, the junior dribbled to the top of the key and fired away. The ball slid through the net, and Conte Forum erupted. The Blue Devils proceeded to commit two turnovers, and with one minute and change to go, Robinson chalked up another 3-pointer to give the Eagles the lead—this time for good. With Allen in his face, the junior pulled up, delivering what would be the dagger.

As soon as Robinson’s shot landed, Allen just turned and stared in disbelief, walking back to other end of the court. He couldn’t have played better defense—Robinson just made a play. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski echoed a similar sentiment, following the game.

“Their kids played great, I mean c’mon,” he said. “This isn’t about us being horrible. This is about how great they were. They were terrific—not great, they were terrific.”

Allen ended up missing the potential game-tying jumper, and the Eagles iced the game by sinking all eight of their free throws in the closing minute.

In the grand scheme of things, this game won’t end up mattering any more than the rest of BC’s 17 ACC games. But for Christian, his players, and the program, it will always hold precedence.

“If you walk out into our hallway in our office, they have posters up of the greatest moments—all the big wins, the conference championships, beating No. 1 teams in the nation,” Christian said. “We’re putting one up for this one.”

Featured Image by Michael Dwyer / AP Photo

December 9, 2017