Men's Basketball

Eagles Finally Beat Pittsburgh, Snap ACC Road Losing Streak

Following Boston College men’s basketball’s upset win over then-No. 25 Miami on Saturday afternoon—a victory that ensured BC’s first 15-win season since 2012-13—head coach Jim Christian insisted that neither he nor his players were looking back to the past. But on Tuesday night, the Eagles had no choice.

After all, they were staring at a Pittsburgh team that was in the same position that they were just two years ago. The Panthers, whose roster—the fourth-youngest in the country—mirrors that of the Eagles’ back in 2015-16, are on pace to join BC as the only other ACC team in the 21st century to finish conference play 0-18. As was the case for the Eagles during their infamous campaign, Pittsburgh can’t catch a break: Transfers and injuries have dictated a season defined by blowouts.

What goes around, comes around. Two years after suffering a 23-point loss to the Panthers, the Eagles gave Pittsburgh a taste of its own medicine on Tuesday, riding Jerome Robinson’s 25-second half points to a 81-58 win—one that snapped the Eagles’ 23-game ACC road losing streak and 11-game skid against the Panthers. To put that in perspective, BC hadn’t beaten Pittsburgh since March 10, 2001, the day the program claimed its last conference title.

For a while, the Eagles’ (16-10, 6-7 Atlantic Coast) win was far from guaranteed. In fact, the contest had trap game written all over it at the start of the night. In what was a role reversal of sorts, BC came out of the gates stone cold. The Panthers (8-19, 0-14), on the other hand—a group that entered the day ranked dead-last in scoring in the ACC with 56.1 points per game against conference opponents—were firing away from everywhere on the court, particularly beyond the 3-point line.

Taking advantage of the fact that the Eagles opened the game 0-of-8 from the field, Pittsburgh slowly but surely built an 8-0 lead in the early going, thanks to a pair of Parker Stewart and Marcus Carr 3-pointers. Eventually, after more than four minutes of scoreless basketball, BC got on the board with a Jordan Chatman triple. Yet it’d be another minute and a half before someone else on the Eagles’ roster etched their name into the box score. BC had no problem moving the ball around the perimeter and creating space—it just couldn’t get anything to fall.

That’s not to say Pittsburgh was having much luck either. The Panthers watched their eight-point lead shrink to just three, going without a field goal for over three and a half minutes. But all it took was a Terrell Brown layup to get Pittsburgh chugging along again. And as the Eagles’ misses continued to stack, the Panthers widened the gap, stringing together a 13-1 run. Jonathan Milligan got things going with a couple of free throws, and Khameron Davis and Stewart capped off the scoring spurt with back-to-back 3-pointers.

To make matters worse for BC, Robinson, one day removed from being named ACC Player of the Week, was T’d up after arguing a no-call with Ted Valentine, one of the strictest zebras there is in the realm of college basketball. The technical was the junior’s third personal of the night, sitting him on the bench for the rest of the half. All of a sudden, Pittsburgh was ahead, 28-13, with about seven minutes left in the opening frame. The Panthers’ 15-point lead was their largest in ACC play this season. It was also short-lived. Over the course of the ensuing 6:28, the Eagles erased their double-digit deficit, finding their rhythm from downtown in the process.

Of all people, Vin Baker Jr., who came into the game averaging two points and shooting just 20.7 percent from 3-point land, led the charge with two triples and another three shots at the charity stripe.

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Eagles were persistent, cleaning up miss after miss. In fact, BC racked up 14 offensive rebounds during the half—three more than Pittsburgh totaled on both ends of the floor. Head coach Kevin Stallings’ guys were so preoccupied in making sure that they got back in transition that they neglected to box up, allowing Ky Bowman, Steffon Mitchell, and Nik Popovic to feast on the glass.

The Panthers regained the lead just before intermission, entering the break with a 34-32 advantage, yet they undoubtedly had lost whatever momentum they once had.

Robinson, who head coach Jim Christian said apologized to his teammates for his ill-advised technical during halftime, came out of the break like he had something to prove. The Raleigh, N.C. native jumpstarted a 7-0 BC run with a layup, a mere 15 seconds into the second half. He’d go on to score 23 of the Eagles’ next 33 points, at one point recording 15 in a row. As far as conference-only stats are concerned, Robinson is the best 3-point shooter in the ACC. But he did most of his work inside of the arc on Tuesday. Attacking the paint, the junior toyed with the dribble-drive and a multitude of on-the-ball moves, to create his heralded step-back and turnaround jumpers. Pittsburgh had no answer for Robinson or, quite frankly, anything.

The Panthers were just as inept on the offense. Scoring just 10 points in the span of 16 and a half minutes, dating back to the first half, Pittsburgh’s two-point halftime lead turned into a 16-point deficit. Not only did the Panthers see their shooting numbers dip in the second period, but they also grew increasingly careless with the ball, turning the rock over nine times in the frame alone.

Jared Wilson-Frame, Shamiel Stevenson, and Anthony Starzynski drained a combined four 3-pointers down the stretch, a desperate attempt to avoid another eyesore of a loss. Right on cue, BC’s Luka Kraljevic, Baker Jr., and Avery Wilson responded with a trio of baskets to eclipse the 80-point mark and hand the Panthers’ their fourth-straight, 20-plus point defeat.

It’s fitting that the Eagles put an end to their ACC road losing streak—one that formulated during the 2015-16 season—against this Pittsburgh team. Although the win won’t do BC any good on Selection Sunday, it does show just how far the program has come.  

Featured Image by Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

February 13, 2018