For the third straight game, Boston College men’s basketball caught a middle-of-the-pack ACC opponent coming off a double-digit loss, and for the second straight contest, it was up against a team currently staring at a losing streak of some capacity. Turns out, the third time was the charm. On Wednesday, Louisville, apparently still recovering from its second-half meltdown against then-No. 1 Duke two weeks ago, looked lost on the offensive end of the court, and eventually BC capitalized—on the back of Ky Bowman no less—using an 8-0 run in the final stages of regulation to snap a two-game losing streak with a 66-59 win.
1. Bowman Flips the Switch When it Matters Most
Bowman is averaging 39.2 minutes per game and has highest usage rate of any ACC player, per KenPom.com. Before the second half of Wednesday night’s game, it looked as if fatigue had finally caught up to the star guard. After all, Bowman had failed to reach the 20-point mark in each of his previous four games and shot just 29.2 percent from the floor during that span. In the opening frame against the Cardinals, an early 3-pointer appeared to foreshadow an improved performance, but instead precluded a 2-of-11 first-half clip. It wasn’t till the back half of play that the junior reverted back to his normal self. Leading BC to victory, Bowman racked up 20 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in the second half, rounding out a near triple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists).
2. A First Half to Be Forgotten
Neither team entered Wednesday on a high. In fact, BC had wasted two straight second-half rallies on the road, and Louisville had lost two in a row and three of its last four. Even so, the level of play in the first half was astonishingly poor. The teams started the game a combined 3-of-18 from the field and didn’t get much better, closing out the period shooting 17-of-63—in other words, a lowly 27 percent. Both sides were reluctant to slow the pace of play and instead traded misses possession after possession, running up and down the court to no avail. Thanks to a 9-0 run, the Cardinals ended the frame with a slim 23-22 lead, but that was hardly saying much. The Eagles’ 23 points marked their lowest first-half scoring total of the year. Meanwhile, Louisville failed to eclipse 25 points in the opening period for the third time in the past four games.
3. Nwora Does a Complete 180
When the teams met on Jan. 16, Jordan Nwora couldn’t seem to miss. In a breakout contest of sorts, the sophomore forward recorded a season-high 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting—including 5-of-9 from downtown. To put that in perspective, although Nwora is Louisville’s leading scorer with 17.1 points per game, that game remains his only 26-plus point performance of the year. Head coach Jim Christian and BC made sure that the 6-foot-8 forward wouldn’t replicate those numbers at Conte Forum. Rather, he failed to make a single shot from the field until the nine-minute mark in the first half. Nwora salvaged his stats in the second period with 10 points and seven rebounds in the final frame, ultimately finishing with a double-double, but a 40-percent clip, two first-half fouls, and three turnovers are pretty telling.
4. Louisville’s Lack of Ball Security
As far as turnovers are concerned, the Cardinals have held their own all year. At the moment, Louisville ranks eighth in the conference with 12.9 per game. On Wednesday night, however, head coach Chris Mack’s team just couldn’t seem to get a grip on the ball. Maybe it was the 9 p.m. start time, maybe it was the two-game losing streak—whatever it was, the Cardinals looked lost on the offensive end, and it all started with turnovers. By the end of the first half, Louisville had coughed up the ball eight times. Fortunately for Mack and Co., BC wasn’t able to do much on the break. The Eagles only scored five points off those turnovers, three of which were in transition. Louisville shored up its ball security in the second half—that is, until it mattered most. The Cardinals coughed up the rock three times in the final three minutes and five seconds, as BC pulled away for the win.
5. BC’s Poor Shot Selection
BC had its own share of discipline problems—not with ball security, but with shot selection. Over the course of the opening 20 minutes of regulation, the Eagles—especially BC’s backcourt—jacked up some highly questionable field goal attempts. For instance, with about 12 and a half minutes left in the first half, Bowman dished the ball to Chatman at the top of key. The veteran guard dribbled out of a V.J. King and Christen Cunningham double-team only to be smothered by Cunningham. Reluctant to pass out, Chatman rose up for a double clutch, off-balanced mid-range jumper that predictably hit the front end of the rim. Fast-forward a couple minutes, and this time it was Bowman who launched an ill-advised shot. Chatman passed the ball to his partner in crime on the left wing, catching the Cardinals mid-switch. Instead of speeding by an out-of-position Darius Perry, Bowman settles for a 3-point attempt that missed the cup completely. When points are hard to come by, shot selection is key.
6. Steven Enoch Makes the Cardinals’ Starters Look Silly
It took 11 minutes for a Louisville starter to log a single field goal. That’s not a typo. Before Nwora connected on a mid-range jumper, all of the Cardinals’ points had either come at the line or at the hands of their bench, namely Steven Enoch. The backup center overshadowed the rest of the Louisville rotation, in large part because he was only one of the floor that was playing at his best. Not only was Enoch the lone double-digit scorer in the first half, but he was also the only one to record more than five points in the period. When all was said and done, the junior— who at one point tried to posterize Nik Popovic, and later attempted to demolish the rim with an errant one-handed slam—clocked out with a season-high 22 points and six rebounds.
7. A Tale of Two Popovics
By the game’s end, Popovic’s numbers were somewhat comparable to Enoch’s. Yet that wasn’t always the case. In the opening half, the Bosnia and Herzegovina native was hounded inside and struggled to make his mark on either end of the floor. Even though Popovic managed to grab six rebounds, he shot just 1-of-6 from the field, offering the Eagles minimal scoring. The field goals began to pile up in the second half, though. Working both Enoch and Malik Williams in the post, as well as hitting a couple timely jumpers, the junior responded with a 13-point second half. But even then, he had his moments. With a little less than 10 minutes to play, Bowman blew by Cunningham and threaded a behind-the-head pass to Popovic. The 6-foot-11 center missed two straight layups before breaking his ankles on the other end of the court. Luckily for Popovic, Williams also broke his ankles in the process, and the laughable play was simply a precursor to a mini 5-0 Popovic run.
8. Louisville Went Cold From 3-Point Land, Ice Cold
All season, Louisville has been one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the ACC. The Cardinals currently rank fifth in the league and 130th in the nation with a 35.2-percent clip. And back in January, they lit BC up from beyond the arc—as Eagles opponents are wont to do—shooting 12-of-29 from downtown. That performance, coupled with the fact that they have tallied 10 or more 3-pointers on 11 separate occasions this season made Wednesday night all the more surprising. Louisville managed to sink just two shots from 3-point land in the opening period and fared marginally better in the following half, ending the game 5-of-24 from deep. In a game that the Cardinals needed to win to boost their NCAA Tournament resume, they couldn’t have gone cold from downtown at a worse time.
9. The Cardinals Dominate the Glass
Sure, Louisville missed a boatload of shots, but it almost didn’t matter. Time and time again, the Cardinals cleaned up their mess on the glass. Louisville outrebounded BC, 29-19, in the first half, mostly because of its work on the offensive end of the court. Of those 29 boards, nine created second-chance scoring opportunities. The Cardinals didn’t take their foot off the gas in the back half of play: They rounded out regulation with a 53-38 advantage on the glass, 17 offensive rebounds to their name, and 11 second-chance points. The 53 boards are far more than Louisville’s season average, but there’s no doubt Mack would trade a higher field goal percentage for less rebounds.
10. BC Finally Holds On
Coming into Wednesday, BC had yet to have beaten the Cardinals in ACC play (0-5 all-time). That’s not to say that it hadn’t come close. Last year, the Eagles went on a 22-7 run with 5:14 left to turn a 17-point deficit into a two-point game before Louisville collected itself and secured the victory. Then, in January, the Eagles staged a 20-2 run with under nine minutes remaining, transforming a 21-point deficit into a two-possession contest. Once again, though, BC faltered in the final stages of regulation, and the Cardinals escaped with a win. No miraculous comeback was needed on Wednesday—just eight straight points to break a 53-53 tie and pave the way for a couple of game-icing trips to the charity stripe. BC has let second half leads slip in six contests during league action. The Eagles made sure not to give away another on Wednesday.
Featured Image by Charles Krupa / AP Photo