Roughly four decades ago, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics upended the basketball world with the revolutionization of the 3-pointer at the Boston Garden, just miles from Conte Forum. On Tuesday night, Boston College men’s basketball (3-9, 1-5 Atlantic Coast) beat Miami 84-62 for its first conference win of the season with unprecedented levels of 3-point shooting, looking much like Bird after the introduction of the 3-pointer in his rookie season more than four decades ago. A historic performance by Rich Kelly from beyond the arc even earned him a comparison to the Celtics legend by the game’s television commentators.
With BC’s lead scorer Wynston Tabbs sidelined for the second game in a row, the rest of its offense stepped up, resulting in 18 3-pointers, the second most in program history. Four Eagles scored double-digit points, with Kelly and Jay Heath scoring 27 and 25 respectively.
“I just think sometimes it’s unexplainable in sports,” said BC head coach Jim Christian in his postgame press conference. “We’re getting good shots. We thought we got great shots last game—as good as you can get against Virginia—and you just gotta make them. Tonight they went in, and once a couple go in, it spreads.”
After winning the tipoff, Miami (5-6, 1-5) took advantage of a lethargic BC defense with an easy layup. The missed 3-pointer by Kelly that followed didn’t look much better for BC, but a defensive rebound by Steffon Mitchell on the next play led to BC taking its first lead of the night courtesy of a CJ Felder 3-pointer. A Miami layup and a pair of free throws gave the Hurricanes a 6-3 lead, but Mitchell’s first 3-pointer of the night tied the game for the first and last time.
A series of Miami turnovers and layups from Heath led to an 11-2 BC run, giving the Eagles a six-point lead after just over five minutes of play. After a 2-of-10 shooting performance on Saturday against Virginia, Heath scored nine points in the first eight minutes of play and scored a career-high 25 on the night.
“My teammates set me up. I didn’t really have to work too hard for looks tonight, and I was just taking easy shots because they were setting me up pretty well,” Kelly said. “I think we played well off each other tonight, and I know Jay [Heath] got me a couple of good looks early, and I tried to find him early too.”
At halftime, BC led Miami 44-34 with nine 3-pointers before the break. Mitchell recorded 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc, Heath and Kelly were hot, and the ’Canes had airballed more triples than they had made.
BC’s momentum at halftime turning into a dismal second-half performance and eventual loss has been a familiar narrative this season, but that was not the case on Tuesday.
“I think tonight was a big stepping block because we didn’t panic,” Christian said. “We kept executing, we made some big shots, got some big stuff, got a couple steals—I think maybe we grew up a little bit tonight.”
The Eagles burst out of the gates after the half with a 14-2 run, leading to a 58-36 lead. After BC missed its first two 3-point attempts of the second half, Kelly responded with three straight makes from beyond the arc. Miami tried to chip away at BC’s lead, narrowing the score to 17, but a 3-point shot by Heath brought the Eagles’ lead back to 20.
As the second half wore on, BC’s lead continued to grow as the Eagles sank more shots from deep. Kelly led the attack with seven 3-pointers on the night, but Heath followed closely with five of his own. Felder also had two triples and DeMarr Langford Jr. had one of his own. Though Mitchell didn’t sink any after halftime, his three triples on the night tied his own career high.
Despite trailing by upward of 20 points for most of the half, Miami did not let up. The Hurricanes continuously played hard defense and aggressive offense, but they had no answer for BC’s 3-point attack. Miami’s dismal 12.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc was no help, and though the ’Canes tied the Eagles in rebounding, Miami could not force turnovers in the same way that other teams have against BC this season.
“I think tonight was obviously a testament to the resiliency of this team,” Christian said. “You play against Virginia and you just can’t make one, and then to have that type of resiliency to come back and have the focus and and put in the effort that we put in tonight—huge, huge step forward, and just like everything else, you’ve got to keep building on it.”
Prior to dismantling Miami, BC took a moment to recognize the recent violence in Washington, D.C. The Eagles took a unified knee in solidarity during the national anthem before the start of the game.
“We all saw what happened in Washington, D.C. last week and know how certain people have been treated in this country for the past 300 years, specifically African Americans,” Kelly said in a postgame interview. “We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that have gone through racism and prejudice, and we just wanted to have their backs and show that you know we stand with them—or kneel with them.”
Featured Image by John Quackenbos Courtesy of BC Athletics