Boston College men’s basketball shook off a slow start in its first game of the season against Milwaukee on Tuesday night, outscoring the Panthers, 46-16, in the second half to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit and win its second-straight season opener, 73-53. In the end, it was a comfortable win for BC, but there are certainly many things that the Eagles will have to work on if they hope to take a step forward from last year. Here are some takeaways from the game and things to watch for moving forward:
Perimeter Defense, Again a Concern?
BC’s issues defending the perimeter were well-documented last season, and questions about how much better the Eagles would be at defending the 3-point line persisted throughout the offseason. BC didn’t do much to dispel those questions against Milwaukee. On the Panthers’ very first offensive possession, confusion between Jordan Chatman and Nik Popovic led to both players following Bryce Barnes after a screen, leaving Vance Johnson, Milwaukee’s leading returning scorer from a year ago, wide open on the 3-point line. The junior buried the shot, setting the tone for the rest of the half.
In the first period, the Panthers shot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, and many of their long-range attempts weren’t guarded well. Making contested 3-pointers is one thing, but oftentimes there was at least a foot or more of space between Milwaukee players and the nearest Eagles defender. To be fair, in the second half, BC’s defensive rotations were much better, as the Panthers shot just 2-for-17 from behind the arc, and the Eagles were much better at getting hands up on shooters. That kind of effort will have to continue for the rest of the season if BC hopes to improve on the defensive end.
Wynston Tabbs, Stealing the Show
Much of the hype surrounding the Eagles this season was focused on Jairus Hamilton, the program’s first ESPN 100 recruit since Craig Smith in 2002. And though Hamilton didn’t play poorly in his debut, finishing with eight points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes of action, it was BC’s other freshman, Wynston Tabbs, who really stood out on the court. In what was a bit of a surprise, Tabbs got the start. Like they did for the entirety of the 2017-18 season, the Eagles went with three guards in the lineup. Once he was on the court, however, it didn’t take long for him to show why he got the nod.
The freshman guard scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting in his debut, showcasing a refined offensive game. First, he broke out in transition to get an easy layup for his first college points. In the second half, he walked into a long pull-up jumper, swishing it over a Milwaukee defender, and hit a 3-pointer just moments later. But perhaps his most impressive play came with just over seven minutes left in the game. He attacked the basket from the right wing, drawing an extra Panthers defender, and went up-and-under the outstretched arms of Amir Allen, kissing the ball off the glass. It was a stunning display of athleticism that capped an outstanding debut for Tabbs.
Ky Bowman Back at It
Tabbs’ backcourt partner didn’t disappoint either. Ky Bowman shot just 1-of-5 in the first half, often struggling to find space as the Panthers keyed on him defensively, clogging the paint in order to prevent him from penetrating and utilizing his athleticism. It worked for a while, but when the game opened up in the second half, the junior began to assert his dominance.
First, Bowman hit a step-back 3-pointer over Barnes to open up the second half, then started to attack the basket with more authority, using his athleticism to simply overpower Milwaukee defenders sometimes. On one play, he broke out in transition, rushing into the paint where two Panthers players were waiting. Rather than go into them, the junior hesitated, using a stutter-step to keep the defenders off-balance before finishing with an outstretched arm.
Textbook Ky Bowman. Stutter-step hesitation move –> the rim. BC now leads, 52-46, and the junior has a team-high 13 points to his name. pic.twitter.com/CkS2gkOqSP
— Andy Backstrom (@andybackstrom) November 7, 2018
He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, as well as one highlight-reel block. With Jerome Robinson now plying his trade for the Los Angeles Clippers, the Eagles will need more of these performances from Bowman this season to win games.
A lot of BC’s issues in the first half came down to a lack of effort and execution. In the opening minutes, the Eagles were sloppy, turning the ball over four times in the games’ first eight minutes and reaching instead of moving their feet on defense. This allowed Milwaukee to race out to a 26-12 lead and forced BC to work hard to close the gap to 10 points going into the break.
The second half was just the opposite. The Eagles committed just three turnovers and executed much better on both sides of the floor. Perhaps most noticeable was an increased intensity and focus on the defensive end, as the Panthers shot just 5-for-38 in the second half. Steffon Mitchell, one of BC’s leaders on that end of the floor a year ago, was especially amped up, repeatedly crashing the defensive glass. The sophomore grabbed nine rebounds in the second period and helped set the tone for the Eagles’ dominant second half.
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor