Top Story, Men's Basketball

BC Buckles Down in Final Minutes to Knock off No. 25 Miami

On Tuesday night at Notre Dame, everything was about Jerome Robinson. The junior matched his career high with eight minutes left to play in the second half and ended up logging 46 points—three shy of the Eagles’ program record and more than any other ACC player had scored this season. Just like he has for the greater portion of conference play, Robinson cast a shadow over his partner-in-crime, Ky Bowman, in South Bend, outscoring the sophomore point guard for the fifth-straight game, once again getting the nod down the stretch.

But with BC’s postseason hopes on the line and a ranked opponent in the house, Bowman upped the ante, as he’s wont to do, on Saturday afternoon. Recording his fifth double-double of the season, the sophomore racked up 24 points, including 18 in the first half alone, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three forced turnovers—none bigger than his steal with under four seconds to play.

Following three-straight Miami misses, Bowman brought the ball up the court with the game tied at 70 and only 25.6 seconds left on the clock. Head coach Jim Christian called a timeout and, expectedly, drew up a play for Robinson, the ACC’s second-leading scorer. With seven seconds remaining, the junior jacked up a 3-pointer, but his shot was the off the mark. The ball hovered in the air, as Bowman fought for positioning underneath the basket. After being temporarily outmuscled by a pair of Hurricanes, the 6-foot-1 guard intercepted Anthony Lawrence II’s pass in the paint and went up for a shot, drawing a foul in the process.

“When the ball is in a scrum situation, I’d put him over anyone in the country to come out of it— that’s what he does,” Christian told reporters after the game.

Calm, cool, and collected, Bowman knocked down both shots at the charity stripe, leaving Miami with nothing more than a desperation heave at the buzzer, effectively securing a 72-70 victory, the Eagles’ second over a ranked opponent this season.

The No. 25 Hurricanes (18-6, 7-5 Atlantic Coast) didn’t convert a single field goal attempt in the final seven minutes and 13 seconds of regulation—a complete 180 degree turn, in regard to their offensive production.

Miami opened the game shooting 57 percent from the floor, drilling eight of its 16 shots from beyond the arc. Running their offense through the speedy Chris Lykes, the Hurricanes routinely attacked the paint, attracting a host of BC (15-10, 5-7) defenders. The dribble-drive penetration opened up shooters on the perimeter, creating more than enough space for Miami to fire away from downtown. Essentially, the Hurricanes were following the blueprint that various opponents have implemented against BC this season—one that exposes the Eagles’ thin defense. The only problem? Miami couldn’t buy a stop.

The first half mirrored that of a track meet: back-and-forth the two teams went, exchanging baskets. Right after Nik Popovic threw down a two-handed dunk off the pick and roll, and Bowman turned in a layup, Hurricanes guard D.J. Vasiljevic found his rhythm. In the span of about two minutes, the sophomore matched his season scoring average, netting three of Miami’s next four shots—all of which were from 3-point land.

Bowman retaliated, scoring or assisting on BC’s next 12 points. Inside and out, the sophomore was having his way with Lykes, who stands at just 5-foot-7. Midway through the period, Jordan Chatman scooped up a loose ball and lofted a pass down the court to a streaking Bowman. Slow to get back on the other end of the court, Miami watched as the red-headed phenom sprinted to the basket, elevated, cocked back, and laid down an emphatic dunk.

All the while, the Hurricanes continued to chuck up the long ball with quite a bit of success. It didn’t matter who it was—Lykes, Vasilijevic, Anthony Lawrence II, or even Sam Waardenburg—in all likelihood, a Miami trey was falling. The two teams were dead even, perfectly exemplified by the four-straight possessions in which Waardenburg and Bowman swapped a pair of 3-pointers.

Neither side could get a shot to go in the final minute and a half of the period—perhaps a sign of what was to come—but a Lawrence II free throw put Miami up, 44-43, before the break.

Immediately, the pace of play dipped in the second half, in large part because of turnovers. After only coughing up the ball five times in the entire first period, the Eagles committed six turnovers, three of which were at the hands of Popovic, in the first six minutes of the half. The Hurricanes weren’t much better. When all was said and done, the opponents combined for 19 turnovers in the period.

Ball security aside, both offenses looked out of sorts. All of a sudden, the air raid was no more. In fact, after shooting 14-of-21 from long range in the first half, the two teams were a putrid 3-of-21 from downtown over the course of the final 20 minutes. Without the outside shot, Miami and BC took to the lane, frequently earning trips to the line.

Four-consecutive shots at the stripe down the stretch and a defensive stand awarded the Hurricanes a six-point lead with just under four minutes to go.

That’s when BC’s backcourt took the game into its own hands. Robinson recorded two contested baskets, the second requiring him to fling the ball over his shoulder, while being clobbered by a pair of Hurricanes, mid-air. He didn’t get the call, but—fortunately for the Eagles—he got the roll. BC didn’t make another field goal, and it didn’t need to.

Approaching the 1:30 mark, Steffon Mitchell trailed behind Lonnie Walker IV on the guard’s way to the rack. As the Reading, Pa. native went up for the layup, Mitchell came soaring in to block his shot off the backboard, sending the Eagles the other way in transition. Bowman pushed the tempo and delivered a pass to Robinson, who was promptly fouled on the ensuing shot attempt. Now the the sixth-best free throw shooter in the ACC, the junior netted both at the line to tie the game.

A couple more Hurricanes misses and Bowman’s highlight-reel hustle play were all BC needed to seal the deal. For the first time since the 2012-13 season, the Eagles are a 15-plus win team with five or more ACC victories. But Christian isn’t pulling out the calendar or record book anytime soon—the past is the least of his concerns.

“The goal for us is to be a hot team in February—that’s the goal. We’re 2-1 in February, that’s all we really care about.”

Photos by Keith Carroll / Heights Editor

Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Editor

February 10, 2018