Basketball, Men's Basketball

Notebook: Bowman, Popovic Lead Eagles Past Wake Forest on the Road

Saturday afternoon wasn’t the first time that Boston College men’s basketball had a game decided by the deep ball this season. Last month against Providence, A.J. Reeves tied it up in Conte Forum with zeroes on the clock. Weeks ago against Hartford, a Jordan Chatman foul on Jason Dunne led to three free throws and an eventual soul-crushing win for the Hawks. And we saw it again against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C..

This time though, it was Ky Bowman, on the road, taking and making an off-balance 25-foot jumper to give the Eagles (11-7, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) the lead and the win with just 15.8 seconds on the clock. The victory over the Demon Deacons (8-11, 1-6), although by the slimmest of margins, turns the Eagles’ five-game losing streak to start conference play earlier this month into a winning stretch of two.

Three Up

1) Jordan Chatman

While Bowman may have been the hero in the end, BC wouldn’t have even been in a position to win if it weren’t for a certain 25-year-old graduate student. As Bowman missed 3-pointer after 3-pointer for the first 39 minutes and 44 seconds of game time—he went just 1-of-6 on the game—it was Chatman who was lighting it up from deep.

Now having made at least five triples in each of the Eagles’ past three games, Chatman has proved he is right back where he left off at the end of ACC play last season. After shooting 2-of-18 from behind the arc in BC’s first three conference games—all losses—Chatman has shot 16-of-25 since, making the biggest shots when they matter the most.

And let’s not forget that the senior joined the 1,000 point club after another 3-pointer earlier in the half. Chatman has scored at least 17 points in three straight games and has shown no signs of slowing down.

2) Nik Popovic

It’s hard to give individual accolades to Chatman without then passing them along to Popovic. The junior led his team in scoring for the fourth time this season, games in which BC is 3-1, and nabbed 11 rebounds over 30 minutes without turning the ball over once.

Making double-digit field goals for the first time in his career, Popovic was a force on the offensive end of the floor, utilizing athletic post moves BC fans have grown accustomed to, allowing him to get by defenders and cash in at the rim.

On the other end, Popovic led an interior defense that held Wake Forest to just four points in the paint over the first 10 minutes of the second half, permitting the BC offense to hop into the driver’s seat and mount a comeback.

3) Hot Start

While time and time again BC gives up an early lead and has to play from behind the rest of the way, the team has been able to have strong opening starts to games. Nothing changed on Saturday, with the Eagles surging out of the gate. Although the Demon Deacons entered halftime with a four-point advantage, it was all BC early on.

A Bowman layup on the game’s first possession sparked an 8-0 run from the visitors amid the game’s first three minutes. Five minutes and three Wake Forest turnovers later he would hit again on another layup, giving the Eagles a 12-4 lead. Although it was the second half where BC made its most impactful run, if it weren’t for a strong start, the Eagles would have had to find a way to pull off a much larger comeback.

Three Down

1) Out of Gas

No matter how impressive their start to the first half was, it didn’t mean much when the Eagles faltered at the end of the period. As BC missed seven consecutive 3-pointers on one end, the Demon Deacons found ways to score on the other, turning a five-point deficit into a four-point lead over the final seven minutes of the half.

As bad as Wake Forest looked to start the game, BC looked far worse just 15 minutes later. Back-to-back turnovers from Luka Kraljevic and Chatman took the air out of the Eagles’ sails with four minutes to go in the half, as BC managed just four points over the final 6:46 of game time.

Meanwhile, the Eagles’ defense seemed almost non-existent, as five different Wake Forest players combined to make 11-of-14 shots to end the first half. To quote ACC Network commentator Eric Collins, “that’s hard to do in an empty gym.”

2) Free Throw Shooting

Despite escaping with a come-from-behind win, BC head coach Jim Christian can not be pleased with how his team fared at the charity stripe. The Eagles finished with an inexcusably low 4-of-10 mark from the free throw line, with no player making more than one shot, or finishing with an individual mark over 50 percent for the game.

Aside from a Ky Bowman 3-point opportunity—he missed the and-one, by the way—BC didn’t have a single attempt from the free throw line in the first half. It’s the first time all season the Eagles haven’t made a free throw in a whole half of gameplay, and one has to wonder when the last time was that any team was able to pull a win out of its hat with such a statistic attached to its name.

Despite their heroics, Chatman, Popovic, and Bowman shot a combined 3-of-8 from the line, and each was lucky to avoid having to go to stripe in crunch time, defaulting to Jared Hamilton with four seconds to play.

And even though Hamilton made the second-most important shot of the game—the front end of a one-and-one—he missed the second shot, sealing the team’s lowest mark from the line this year.

3) Unable to Capitalize

Just looking at the box score, you’d wonder why the Eagles’ ability to force turnovers didn’t end up in the “three up” section. Wake Forest lost the ball nine times in the first half, with Chris Herren Jr. tallying three steals, but the problem was that BC couldn’t make the Demon Deacons pay for it.

Wake Forest finished with 16 turnovers, but the Eagles managed just 11 points off of them. In fact, the first five times the Demon Deacons lost the ball, BC failed to score. This all happened in a pivotal stretch at the beginning of the first half, when Wake Forest was able to claw its way back into the game.

Although the Eagles recorded their own lowest turnover total of the season with just seven, the accomplishment was overshadowed by their inability to turn the Demon Deacons’ mistakes into points. By the end of the game, though, none of it mattered when Bowman found twine, allowing the Eagles to come home for a date with Syracuse with a winning streak in hand.

Featured Image by Steven Senne / AP Photo

January 27, 2019