Top Story, Men's Basketball

Eagles Close out Non-Conference Play With Win Over Dartmouth

For much of the first half of Saturday afternoon’s game against Dartmouth—19 minutes and 56.3 seconds to be exact—Boston College men’s basketball point guard Ky Bowman was a non-factor. Although he didn’t turn the ball over and dished out three assists, the sophomore was 0-of-5 from the field and, quite frankly, looked out of sorts.

But, as always, a cold spell didn’t stop the former All-ACC Freshman from jacking up shots. Following a Big Green turnover, the Eagles got the ball back for the final possession of the first half. With the game tied at 38, Bowman received the inbound pass and made a bee-line for the 3-point arc. Just before the buzzer, the Havelock, N.C. native elevated and launched a slightly off-balanced triple. The ball fell through the net, and Bowman walked away like nothing happened. After all, he was only getting started.

The sophomore scored 12 points in the first five minutes of the second half, igniting a 23-4 BC run that turned a three-point game into a 20-point blowout. Dartmouth never recovered, and the Eagles scooped up their 10th and final non-conference victory of the season, winning by a score of 86-72.

Even though Bowman swung the momentum, BC (12-6, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) head coach Jim Christian spent the most time praising his center, Nik Popovic, who bounced back from one of his worst performances of the season at North Carolina by shooting 6-of-6 from the field and recording eight rebounds.

“I thought his response today earned a lot of respect from everybody in our locker room,” Christian said. “I thought he approached the game great [and] played very intelligently—that was a fantastic 40-minute effort for him.”

Popovic, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half, wasted no time exploiting the Big Green’s (4-10, 0-1 Ivy League) undersized frontcourt. Less than a minute into the game, the 6-foot-10 sophomore set a screen for Jerome Robinson. While the guard dribbled right, Popovic rolled to the basket. Wide-open, he hauled in the pass and finished at the rim with a two-handed flush. Soon after, Popovic got Miles Wright to bite on a pump fake, setting up an easy layup. At times guarded by guys who were five inches shorter than him, the sophomore made a point of attacking the paint, and so did his teammate, Steffon Mitchell.

The freshman, who towered over Aaryn Rai, posted a double-double for the third time this season, racking up 10 points and 10 rebounds. BC’s frontcourt—its weakness against the Tar Heels—was the heart and soul of the Eagles’ offensive production in the early going. But the Big Green wasn’t going away anytime soon.  

Dartmouth converted eight of its 13 long-range shots in the opening period, including six of its last eight in the frame’s final seven minutes. Ian Sistare led the charge, knocking down all four of his first-half 3-pointers. With under five minutes to go in the period, Adrease Jackson cleaned up a Rai missed layup, putting the Big Green in the lead for the first time since the 17-minute mark. From that point forward, the rest of the half was essentially a 3-point shootout.

The teams went back-and-forth, exchanging perimeter shots, combining for seven triples during the final stretch of the period. BC got the last laugh, as Bowman nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to break the tie before intermission.

The shot may only have given the Eagles a three-point lead at the time, but, in reality, it turned the tide. All of a sudden, Bowman couldn’t be stopped. Right out of the break, the electric guard drove to the lane, spun past Brendan Berry, and got a layup to roll, despite contact. Bowman sunk the free throw to complete the old-fashioned 3-point play. Thirty seconds later, the sophomore was back at it—only this time, he was gunning for SportsCenter’s Top 10.

Bowman pushed the ball up the court and stutter-stepped as he approached the 3-point line. Thinking that Bowman was about to blow by him like he did the previous possession, Berry backpedaled. Instead, the sophomore pulled the ball back between his legs, breaking his defender’s ankles. As Berry fell to the court, Bowman delivered a silk, smooth 3-pointer.  

boston college men's basketball

The sophomore’s play was contagious. Robinson and Mitchell started to heat up, and Chatman threw down a one-handed slam—which according to Christian and Popovic was the junior’s first in-game dunk since an exhibition game in the Bahamas this summer. Fittingly, Bowman capped off the monster run with another highlight-reel play. He picked off a Big Green pass near half court, coasted to the hoop, and laid down a windmill dunk.

Practically everyone in Conte Forum was going crazy, except Christian.

“I get nervous every time he does one of those,” he jokingly told reporters following the game. “I know it’s going in—I’m not nervous about the missed shot. It’s just, he does what he does. He’s a phenomenal athlete.”

Meanwhile, Dartmouth couldn’t buy a basket. Once red-hot from downtown, the Big Green struggled to cope with increasing ball pressure, and never really found their rhythm in the latter portion of play, shooting a putrid 1-of-10 from beyond the arc in the closing period.

Eventually, Dartmouth strung together an array of field goals, but it didn’t matter. The Big Green had no answer for the Eagles’ offense. Over the course of the final 11 minutes of play, Chatman logged 10 of his 15 points, Vin Baker Jr. worked his way to a career-high nine points, and Avery Wilson etched his name into the box score as BC maintained its substantial lead.

After falling to UNC by 30—their worst loss of the year—the Eagles found themselves with a great opportunity to get back on track on Saturday. Facing a reeling Dartmouth team at home, BC had the chance to assert its dominance in the paint, run up and down the floor, and, most importantly, regain its confidence. The Eagles did all of that while recording their best non-conference mark in seven years.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor

January 13, 2018

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