Top Story, Men's Basketball

Eagles Hang on to Beat Richmond in Overtime

It was Ky Bowman’s time to squash Richmond’s hopes of an upset.

The way Saturday’s game had gone, Boston College men’s basketball’s two-point lead was simply not enough. Bowman knew he needed points on this possession to put the game out of reach. He surveyed the court, searching for a pass that would lead to an easy basket. Richmond’s defense was airtight. As the shot clock winded down, Bowman used a jab step to create space, and released a high-arcing three while the crowd held its breath. The ball soared through the air with a methodical horizontal spin, and gave BC a five-point lead that sent Conte Forum into hysteria. The shot all but sealed the 78-73 victory. BC’s winning streak—its longest since the 2012-13 season—now stands at five games, and the Eagles are a perfect 8-0 at home.

BC (10-3, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) had its foot on the gas pedal from tip-off, starting with an 11-1 run. The first 15 minutes were all about Jordan Chatman. He had four 3-pointers, a mid-range jumper and a crafty layup that gave him 16 first-half points. Thanks to the junior, BC’s early lead grew to a 31-14 advantage midway through the first period. The Eagles’ positionless offensive attack was producing at will, and it looked as if it was the beginning of a long afternoon for the Spiders.

A Nick Sherod triple with 6:41 left in the first half started a relentless Richmond (2-10) rally. The Spiders sliced the BC defense apart with sharp passing, giving Grant Golden opportunities to make high-percentage looks to chip away at the lead. Richmond ended the first half on a 19-8 run, and found itself with a manageable six-point deficit going into the half. BC was left with more questions than answers heading into the locker room, in a position that it would have never expected at the midway point of the first half.

BC definitely missed its leading scorer, Jerome Robinson, in the latter portion of the first half. He left the game after crashing into a Richmond player with a bit more than 13 minutes to go. Fans were left wondering if the collision injured Robinson. He was seen coaching his teammates on the bench throughout the duration of his absence. He would finally return with 51 seconds left in the first half, his team in a wildly different position than it was the last time he was on the floor. It was later confirmed that Robinson was not actually injured on the play, and that head coach Jim Christian was sitting the junior because he had already picked up two fouls.

Richmond continued where it left off to begin the second half by controlling the tempo and out-rebounding the Eagles. A once free-flowing and aggressive BC squad turned timid, because it could not find the touch it had at the start of the game. Even so, the Eagles clung onto a 56-44 lead with around 12 minutes to go, and looked like they could possibly sleepwalk their way to victory. Richmond had other ideas. Golden and fellow big man Julius Johnson went on a quick 6-0 run of their own to make it a two-possession game halfway through the second half. Later, Sherod made another 3-pointer, and, all of a sudden, it was a 57-53 game with 7:17 to go. BC was fighting for its life.

Khwan Fore’s relentless effort swung the momentum completely in Richmond’s favor. After a Steffon Mitchell basket gave BC a six-point lead, the lightning-fast guard made a ridiculous and-one layup over Nik Popovic. To make matters worse for the Eagles, he sunk the ensuing free throw to complete the three-point play. A few scoreless possessions later, Fore attacked the rim yet again and banked a layup off of the glass to make it a 59-58 game. The Spiders were alive and looking for a season-defining win to shake off their rough start to the year.

With three minutes to go, Richmond freshman point guard Jacob Gilyard found himself on the fastbreak with only Robinson to beat. Robinson, trying to avoid the foul, put his hands down and turned his back to Gilyard as he went up for the layup. The ref blew the whistle as the ball went through the net, controversially calling Robinson on his third foul and giving Gilyard a three-point play. Richmond had its first lead of the contest, up 61-59, with three minutes to go.

The game was sloppy and fast-tempoed for the rest of regulation. With BC facing a one-point deficit with 41 seconds to go, Chatman continued his great shooting day by receiving a pass from Bowman and nailing a triple. The Eagles now had a two-point lead, and were doing everything they could to finish the job. Fore freed himself from the BC defense just enough to tie the game with 25 seconds left. After a Mitchell miss at the buzzer, the game headed to overtime, all knotted up at 66.

The pace of the game slowed down in overtime, with both teams cautiously protecting the ball. Ultimately, it was two undefendable 3-pointers by Chatman and Bowman that provided BC the separation it needed to pull off the win. It seemed fitting that Chatman was fouled at the end of the game, because it allowed the ACC-leading 94-percent free throw shooter to reach the 30-point mark, and match his career high.

The Eagles are continuing their impressive start to the season. After losing Teddy Hawkins for the year, it was easy for many to write this team off. Instead, BC has relied on an explosive offense headed by Bowman, Robinson, and Chatman and defensive specialists Mitchell and Popovic to carry its success into conference play. Now, the calendar turns to Virginia—the beginning of a grueling stretch of ACC games that will play a large role in determining whether BC can break its eight-year NCAA Tournament drought.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

December 23, 2017