Basketball, Men's Basketball

Bowman’s First Half Explosion Carries BC to Win Over Wyoming

On a possession halfway through the first half of Boston College men’s basketball’s Monday night game against Wyoming, Ky Bowman popped to the left corner, finding a little bit of space. The ball was quickly swung to him, and he didn’t hesitate, elevating and nailing a 3-pointer. On the jog back down the floor, he smiled and mimed shooting an imaginary bow and arrow, pointing at no one in particular.

It was an apt motion, as the junior had spent most of the half picking apart the Cowboys with deadly long-range shooting. Bowman finished the first half with 24 points and five made 3-pointers, staking BC to a 48-32 halftime lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Wyoming cut the deficit to three at one point in the second half, but couldn’t climb all the way back, as the Eagles– behind Bowman’s career-high 38 points—pulled away down the stretch to win their first road game of the season, 88-76, in the semifinals of the Fort Myers Tip-Off.

From the opening tip, the Cowboys settled into a 3-2 zone designed to frustrate the Eagles’ dynamic backcourt. For a while, it worked. BC looked discombobulated in its half-court offense, often settling for aimless passes around the perimeter. When the Eagles did find baskets, it was mostly on the fast break. A pretty Bowman bounce pass led to a Steffon Mitchell dunk, and a Wyoming turnover led to an uncontested reverse layup for Bowman a possession later.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, thrived at the line. Wyoming sandwiched five free throws in between a pair of Jake Hendricks triples, the latter of which gave the Cowboys an 18-17 lead. But after two more shots from the charity stripe extended Wyoming’s advantage to three points, Bowman went to work.

The junior attacked the rim and converted a layup, drawing a foul in the process before finishing the 3-point play. One trip down the floor later, Bowman buried a 3-pointer, and followed that up with another shot from behind the arc that capped a 9-0 run and gave the Eagles a 26-20 lead.

Wyoming called a timeout to try to cool Bowman off, but the junior wouldn’t slow down. He cut to the free throw line, in the middle of the Cowboys’ zone, and hit a contested 17-foot jumper to widen the BC advantage to 33-20. That was the last straw for Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards. He took his team out of the zone and decided to play man-to-man defense in an attempt to break Bowman’s rhythm.

The junior saw this and called for a Johncarlos Reyes screen. Off the pick, he drew both defenders toward him and slipped a simple bounce pass between them, setting up Reyes—who was making his first start of the year—for a vicious dunk. Then, with just six seconds left in the first half, a Jordan Chatman jumper bounced high off the rim. In between Wyoming post players, Bowman skied for the offensive board, retreated a few strides, then put up a pretty floater that hit only the net, capping a dominant first-half performance and sending BC to the locker room comfortably ahead.

The second period looked like it would be more of the same, as an early Mitchell steal led to an emphatic Bowman slam on the fast break, but Wyoming slowly began to close the gap, attacking the paint aggressively and getting the Eagles into foul trouble.

First, Wynston Tabbs, who started the game on the bench due to a disciplinary issue after an impressive start to the season, was caught reaching, and took a seat just two minutes into the half with four fouls. Then Reyes, who had effectively patrolled the baseline in the first half to the tune of 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, was forced to the bench with four infractions of his own four minutes later.

In the meantime, the Cowboys made 9-of-10 free throws and relied on leading scorer Justin James—who totaled 18 points in the second half—to cut a 21-point BC lead to six with a 21-6 run. Wyoming was playing with more energy than the Eagles, whose offensive cohesion had vanished as the Cowboys focused more intently on keeping Bowman quiet. It was an eerily familiar feeling for BC, who had squandered a 14-point lead to IUPUI in its loss last week, but Bowman soon proved he still had some arrows in his quiver.

After a James 3-pointer made the score 64-58, Bowman sprinted to the right corner, where he spotted up for a triple off a pass from Tabbs that gave BC a little breathing room. Then, after a pair of T.J. Taylor shots from the charity stripe narrowed the Wyoming deficit to just three, the junior used a Jairus Hamilton pick to find space and launched another shot from downtown that took a shooter’s bounce off the rim before falling through the net.

Those two makes steadied the Eagles and set the stage for two of the biggest shots of the game—shots that came from two of less-heralded members of BC’s backcourt. After James converted 1-of-2 free throws, BC forced consecutive stops and surged into the paint on the other end, drawing fouls. Chris Herren Jr. missed the second of two free throws, but Mitchell, who grabbed four offensive boards, came up with the loose ball and kicked the ball out to a wide open Vin Baker Jr. The sophomore, who shot just 20 percent from deep last season, connected to increase the Eagles lead to a comfortable 77-68.

Then, with just under two minutes to play, Bowman ran the shot clock down and called for a screen. After cutting to his left, the junior lost the ball, but was able to recover and shoveled an underhand pass out to Herren Jr. With two defenders running at him, the freshman showed no hesitation, netting a contested triple to put BC up 10 and the game out of reach.

The Eagles cruised to the finish line from there, finally able to relax after a tough challenge from a resilient Cowboys team. The win also pushed them through to a big non-conference matchup against Loyola-Chicago—a team that was in the Final Four just a season ago—in the Fort Myers Tip-Off Championship

The game was an illustration that many questions remain about this BC team. The Eagles still have a tendency to foul too much on the defensive end, and they need more consistent scoring to go along with Bowman. Tabbs—the team’s second-leading scorer through the first three games—scored just two points and fouled out in only nine minutes of action. Avery Wilson, who started in his place, continued to look lost offensively and had three fouls in 13 minutes, while Jordan Chatman, coming off his best game of the season, shot just 2-of-13.

The game was also a reminder that, quality of second options aside, the Eagles still possess one of the most dynamic offensive talents in the country. Bowman, who was so prolific in the first half, slowed down slightly in the second, but still finished the game with 38 points on 14-of-22 shooting and seven made 3-pointers. It was a stunning display of the explosiveness that the junior possesses on the offensive end and a reminder that BC, despite all its issues, has a chance against most teams whenever he takes the floor.

Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff

November 20, 2018