On paper, Boston College men’s basketball shouldn’t have had any problem against St. Francis Brooklyn, a team that entered as the No. 327 team in KenPom’s rankings. The Terriers (1-1) were a year removed from a four-win season and had struggled against opponents outside the Northeast Conference, managing just five victories in non-conference play over the course of the past two years. On Sunday, though, the Eagles (2-0) found themselves locked in a surprising back-and-forth battle, eventually escaping with a 74-69 win in which they took the lead for good with 3:22 left in the game.
The very tight early-season showdown revealed several things of note—especially problems that BC will have to correct if it wants to find success when it faces a higher quality opponent.
BC’s Bench Makes Little Impact
Against St. Francis, the Eagles bench was unable to get on the scoreboard. BC’s starting five—Ky Bowman, Wynston Tabbs, Nik Popovic, Jordan Chatman, and Steffon Mitchell—accounted for all 74 of the team’s points.
Jairus Hamilton, Chris Herren Jr., and Vin Baker Jr. saw time on the floor, but none of them were able to make a significant impact. Hamilton’s struggles were particularly surprising, as the freshman ESPN 100 recruit notched eight points and seven rebounds in the 20-point rout of Milwaukee in the season opener. He struggled mightily against St. Francis Brooklyn, playing just 12 minutes and committing three fouls—BC was minus-5 with him on the floor.
Baker Jr., clearly working his way back from a concussion that kept him out of the season opener, managed just three minutes and missed a 3-pointer. Herren Jr. saw a similar amount of time on the court with five minutes, but missed a 3-pointer as well.
Perimeter Defense Again Exposed
BC’s perimeter defense was one of its primary weaknesses last season, and it appears that two games into the season, it is still a big concern. It was noticeable that St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica saw this vulnerability and made it a point in his game plan to attack it. The Terriers leaned on shots from beyond the arc in 2017-18, shooting 34 percent as a team, and they saw an uptick against the Eagles.
St. Francis’s 3-point shooting was on full display Sunday afternoon—it shot the ball 30 times from behind the arc and converted those shots at a 40-percent clip. The Terriers’ 36 points off 3-point shooting accounted for more than 50 percent of their scoring output, and they finished the game having made more 3-pointers than 2-pointers. If you compare their shooting with BC’s—the Eagles only went 5-for-20 from distance—it’s easy to see why this game was so competitive.
Ky Goes Off
Ky Bowman didn’t score his first basket until late in the first half—with 8:15 on the clock—but he ended up scoring 26 points and went 8-of-9 at the charity stripe. Bowman caught fire in the final minute of the first half, as he nailed two 3-pointers, the second coming with two seconds left, to tie the game up, 33-33, before the break.
The final surge was impressive as he piled up 12 points in the first half, and his excellent play only continued in the second half. Bowman’s biggest play came with two minutes left, when the Eagles were protecting a one-point lead and he came up with a steal and decisive layup. The junior ended with five rebounds and four assists to round out his line. The only blemishes on Bowman’s day were his four turnovers and the fact that he fouled out, but the game was squarely in BC’s possession before Bowman exited.
Free Throw Shooting
Both teams shot poorly from the free throw line on Sunday. The Terriers only shot 62 percent from the free throw line, and BC was only slightly better at 68 percent. This number is down from the Eagles’ previous effort, where they shot 75 percent from the line.
Bowman, Tabbs, and Chatman all shot above 80 percent from the free throw line, but Popovic and Mitchell dragged the average down. Each player missed four of his six free throws, rates more normal for Mitchell (52.1 percent last season) then Popovic (71.3 percent). While the Eagles still pulled out the win, those missed free throws could be the difference in future games—the 12 missed as a team worked hand in hand with the woeful 3-point shooting to let St. Francis hang around.
Tabbs Has Another Strong Showing
Tabbs was the catalyst for BC’s second-half surge against Milwaukee, where the Eagles outscored the Panthers, 46-16, in the final 20 minutes. The freshman picked up where he left off and had a noticeable impact in his second game in Chestnut Hill, scoring 15 points to go alongside three rebounds and two assists.
Many were surprised to see Tabbs, a three-star recruit from Leonardtown, Md., starting over Hamilton in the season opener. They weren’t when he came out in the starting lineup against St. Francis, and rightfully so—the freshman has quickly made his name known. Scoring 15-plus points in back-to-back games is a remarkable early season effort, and he’s made the loss of Jerome Robinson’s 18.7 points per game more manageable. Tabbs has been a difference maker thus far, and it’s reasonable to think that he’ll be a core piece for BC moving forward.
Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Editor