Men's Basketball, Top Story

After Erasing Double-Digit Hokies Lead, BC Runs out of Gas in Overtime

Boston College men’s basketball head coach Jim Christian couldn’t buy a call all night. But, a bit more than three minutes into the second half, the fourth-year man finally got the one he needed: a technical. As weird as it sounds, the infraction—BC’s first bench technical since Jan. 18, 2014 and Christian’s second of his coaching career—revived the Eagles’ offense. After being outscored, 16-3, over the course of the final 1:36 of the first half and opening 3:13 of the second period, BC strung together three-consecutive triples and a 16-6 run to cut its deficit to just one. Even though the Hokies quickly reestablished a multi-possession lead, the complexion of the game had changed, and the Eagles were revitalized.

BC had to wait for the next technical to make its move, though. Following a VTech turnover, Robinson sprinted down the court and jacked up a 3-pointer from the the top of the arc while being fouled. Before he could even get to the line, the Hokies’ Chris Clarke was T’d up, handing the Eagles an additional two free throw attempts. Robinson shooed away Jordan Chatman—the ACC’s third-best free throw shooter—and drained both technical foul shots, as well as the remaining three from the charity stripe. Just like that, the junior, who knocked down 12 of his 13 total free throws and logged a season-high 32 points, turned a seven-point game into a one-possession thriller.

With the game tied at 71 and under 10 seconds to go, VTech’s Justin Robinson drove to the lane, spinning past Ky Bowman and Nik Popovic. All that was left was for the junior to finish at the rack, but his layup missed off the glass. Immediately, Chatman hauled in the rebound, pushed the ball up the court, and delivered a pass to Robinson along the 3-point line. He set his feet and released, only to see his shot rim out at the buzzer.

Unfortunately for BC, that was just the beginning of the end. The Hokies saved their best basketball for overtime, recording four more field goals than BC in the five-minute period, escaping Chestnut Hill with a wild 85-80 victory.

For a while, the only thing keeping VTech (16-6, 5-4 Atlantic Coast) in the game was BC’s (13-9, 3-6) poor ball security. The Eagles, who ended up committing 16-plus turnovers for the third-consecutive game, coughed up the ball eight times in the first half—and the Hokies made the most of every one of them. Despite shooting a dismal 36 percent from the field in the first period, VTech hung around and even took the lead before the break, in large part because of a whopping 10 points off turnovers.

If the Eagles held onto the ball, they could have easily put the game out of reach in the first half, at least by the looks of the initial eight or so minutes of the frame. Robinson was unstoppable, teasing VTech with the dribble-drive and netting his first three attempts from 3-point land. The only problem? His success wasn’t contagious: Aside from Robinson, BC converted a mere 30 percent of its shots in the opening 20 minutes of play.

It was only a matter of time before the Hokies—the second-highest scoring team in the conference—snapped back into reality. In the waning minutes of the half, VTech finally got some touches in the paint before kicking the ball back outside. Rather than heaving up isolation 3-pointers in transition like Justin Robinson, Justin Bibbs, and Ahmed Hill did for much of the period, the Hokies started to facilitate ball movement, even when running in transition. VTech closed out the frame with back-to-back triples—both of which stemmed from inside penetration.

The second half started just like the last one ended. BC continued to turn the ball over, and the Hokies kept on rolling, scoring the first six points of the period, stretching their lead to 11 in the process. That’s when Steffon Mitchell took a VTech turnover the other way, Euro stepping and absorbing contact at the hoop. But the freshman’s shot fell short of the basket and, to Christian’s dismay, not a single whistle was blown. When the Hokies brought the ball up the court, Christian barked at the sideline referee, all but asking for a technical. He got one, and the Eagles ran with it. All of a sudden, Chatman, Bowman, and even Mitchell were sinking long-range shots.

Quickly, though, VTech silenced Conte Forum with six-straight points.

As the game went on, the Hokies’ field goal percentage rose, slowly but surely—partly because they were taking better shots, but also due to the fact that the Eagles’ defense was sagging on the other end of the floor. Justin Robinson and Bibbs found their mark and Kerry Blackshear Jr. got a handful of easy looks inside, outworking Popovic and Mitchell in the post. It appeared as if BC—a team that plays its starters more than just about anyone in the country—was simply fatigued.

Then, with three minutes and change to go, the unlikeliest of heroes bailed the Eagles out. Bowman, who missed 11 of his first 15 shots, drilled two 3-pointers in a row to bring BC within five. A couple possessions later, the sophomore scooted by Justin Robinson and finished at the rim, while being hacked by Blackshear Jr. His corresponding free throw was the first of eight for the Eagles down the stretch. Bowman’s partner-in-crime, Robinson, took over the show from there, hitting shot after shot at the stripe. Single-handedly, the junior forced overtime. Yet once BC got there, he wasn’t much of a factor—no Eagle really was.

Although it took a few more trips to the line, BC only made one shot in the extra frame. The Eagles were even less effective on defense. VTech shot 5-of-7 from the floor during the period, canning a pair of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Hill 3-pointers, pulling away in the final minutes of what was a marathon of a night. Hokies head coach Buzz Williams was relieved, but most of all perplexed by what just happened, specifically concerning BC’s trio of guards.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a perimeter that puts stress on you from start to finish the way those guys do,” Williams said. “I mean, it’s so hard.”

The three combined for 60 of the Eagles’ 80 points, ultimately not enough to snap their third two-game skid of the season. Now, three games below .500 in ACC play, Christian has no choice but to look forward with the month of February upon him.

“We’ve just got to put ourselves in the position to get an opportunity in the next one,” Christian said. “It’s one game at a time. It was a 10-game season coming into tonight, it’s now nine.”

Still, there’s no doubt that the Eagles will have this one in the back of their minds for a long time, especially if they make a postseason push come March.

Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff

January 31, 2018