Sports, Top Story, Men's Basketball

Bowman, Injury-Plagued BC Drop Fourth Straight After Poor Showing in Syracuse

Boston College men’s basketball point guard Ky Bowman dribbled the ball the length of the court, darted underneath the basket and out to the corner, found an inch of space, and sunk a contested 3-pointer between two Syracuse defenders. Sometimes, that’s all a player can do when the rest of his team is lifeless.

It was the second straight 3-pointer from the junior guard, coming right before the host Orange extended its lead to 20 midway through the second half. While Bowman and the Eagles would go on a 14-0 run late in the half to make things interesting, the team was plagued by turnovers, defensive miscues, and poor showings from anyone wearing a number other than zero. Bowman finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but the rest of BC hit just a combined 11 shots en route to a humbling 67-56 setback defeat to Syracuse.

Bowman, who didn’t start for the first time this season after a “minor, internal team issue,” watched from the bench as his team came out to a listeless start. The Eagles (11-11, 2-8 Atlantic Coast) started the day 0-of-10 from the field, with Jim Christian’s offense looking absolutely abysmal without its dynamic point guard. Luckily for BC, Syracuse (17-7, 8-3) was equally slow out of the gate, only building a 4-1 lead before Bowman came in.

The guard’s return was marked by a noticeable improvement in offense, with the junior hitting the team’s first field goal of the game seven minutes in, then following it with a high-arcing 3-pointer over Orange star Tyus Battle. It handed BC a one-point lead and spurred a decent stretch of play from the visitors. When Jordan Chatman drew a questionable foul on a 3-point attempt in the corner and sunk all three of his free throws, the Eagles took a 17-16 lead. At that point, the team had rebounded from its woeful start by going 5-of-10 from the field—Bowman’s outsized impact on the roster crystal clear.

Then, just as quickly as it seemed like BC was going to give Syracuse a good run, the wheels came off. In a fitting manner, the Orange took the lead for good on a Buddy Boeheim 3-pointer—the freshman, who dropped 13 points on the Eagles in January, again acted as BC’s kryptonite with 16 points off the bench. The Orange would close the first half on a 7-0 run, one that was alleviated by a Chatman 3-point play in the waning seconds to bring the deficit back to single digits, but the Eagles still trailed by seven.

Things got worse when shorthanded BC suffered yet another injury early in the second half. Nik Popovic, who led the team at the time with an inefficient 10 points on 10 shots, went up for a rebound amid teammate Steffon Mitchell and Syracuse center Paschal Chukwu. On the way down, Chukwu’s outstretched hand collided with his face, sending the junior power forward to the locker room and into concussion protocol.

To add insult to injury, Frank Howard knocked down a 3-pointer while Popovic was motionless on the floor under his own basket. It didn’t help things that Popovic’s replacement, Johncarlos Reyes, was greeted by an emphatic block from Oshae Brissett on his first and only attempt of the field. Mitchell went down shortly after with what appeared to be an aggravation of a prior quad injury that has cost him four games this season, he’d return later in the half but didn’t fill the stat sheet as much as he usually does.

Christian also used Luka Kraljevic off the bench to get size down low, but that move had similarly bad results as the sophomore piled up three fouls in his first two minutes and was blocked twice underneath. You could feel that Syracuse was ready to rumble. It had several scoring spurts, but each time Bowman would hit a 3-pointer to keep the Orange within sight. He ended runs of 5-0 and 7-0, launching his celebratory arrow each time, but there was only so much he could do. The rest of the team was lifeless on offense, with Chatman chucking up a particularly egregious mid-range jumper at the end of the shot clock in one instance.

Bowman’s aforementioned dribble to the corner and 3-pointer cut it to 10—he’d scored nine of his teams last 12 points and saw no signs of help. Chatman would finally shake off his struggles with a 3-pointer, but it came right before an 8-0 run from battle and the Orange. Christian took a timeout in the middle of it, furious when Battle rose up for an uncontested alley oop in transition—the layup marked a 21-0 edge in points off turnovers for Syracuse.

The Eagles woke back up, as they often do when the game is practically decided, and launched themselves on a 14-0 run that had the Orange reeling. It was your classic false hope from BC, with Jairus Hamilton converting a three-point play, Chatman sinking a 3-pointer before Syracuse’s defense was back, and Bowman capping his night with a tough corner deep ball. The run was inspiring, closing the gap to just six, but asking for 20 straight points and perfect execution down the stretch means the hole is too deep to get out of. The Orange hit four free throws before Chris Herren Jr. connected on a mid-range jumper, and after Chatman uncharacteristically missed twice from the stripe, Boeheim converted a pair of free throws to send BC home with a 11-point loss that will be excruciating to watch in the film room.

The same issues that have confronted Christian’s team throughout the year were on full display for much of the game. The Eagles often allow a relative unknown player to heat up—Boeheim hit three 3-pointers in the first half and was left open way too many times for a guy that they’d seen beat them before. Battle was once again unable to be denied in the second half—he scored 21 points in the final 20 minutes in Conte Forum and added 15 this time around. Turnovers were an issue, with BC piling up 18—one shy of its season-worst, when it accrued 19 in an overtime loss to Hartford. The offense was often stagnant against a zone defense it knows, as shooters bricked shots left and right, and it got to the point where Mitchell—a career 25 percent 3-point shooter—was taking a shot from distance because of the shot clock.

At the moment, with four losses and any chance at conference success slipping away, it’s clear that as Bowman goes, so does the team. And, when the rest of the team is playing as bad as they did at points against Syracuse, it prompts the harsh fact that Christian and the Eagles are squandering a NBA-bound talent who is doing all he can and more for the team on the court.

Featured Image by Nick Lisi / AP Photo

February 10, 2019