While Boston College and Utah sit 2,000 miles apart, the two programs do have one thing in common: two first-year head coaches looking to prove themselves early in the season.
In the end, it was head coach Craig Smith of Utah (4–0) who got the better of Earl Grant and Boston College men’s basketball, handing BC (3–2) its second straight loss and its first in the Sunshine Slam tournament by a final score of 68–61.
This season, 3-point shooting has not been BC’s strong suit, as the Eagles have averaged 38.5 percent from distance through their first five games. A final stat line 6-of-12 shooting from beyond the 3-point line against Utah came as a welcome change, keeping the Eagles in a game filled with a nonstop, back-and-forth action on both ends of the court.
Jaeden Zackery started off the game scorching hot, netting five of BC’s first seven points. Shortly after, though, the Eagles found themselves down by seven early in the first half off a jump shot from Utah’s David Jenkins Jr. The Utes seemed poised to take control of the game and pull away, but BC responded with fire. The Eagles refused to let the lead get out of hand and eventually took a 17–16 lead.
“They have a talented group,” Grant said in his postgame press conference. “We knew we were going to be challenged and had to make sure we got ahead in transition. We just continued to be sound defensively.”
An emphatic dunk by Utah’s Branden Carlson put the Utes up by six, but once again, the Eagles responded with a 10–0 run that saw Zackery, DeMarr Langford Jr., Quinten Post, and T.J. Bickerstaff all scored to give BC a 32–30 lead at the half.
The rapid back-and-forth action continued at the start of the second half, as both teams traded baskets. The Eagles continued to struggle with turnovers, finishing the game with 14 giveaways. Turnovers proved to be a huge issue for BC, as Utah scored 15 points off turnovers, which helped the Utes take a 48–41 lead midway through the second half.
Once again, however, the Eagles refused to quit, fighting back to cut the lead to as little as two points. That deficit would be the smallest gap the Eagles faced until the buzzer sounded.
With many opportunities to tie it or take the lead as the end of the game drew near, the Eagles’ offense stalled. Zackery was unable to replicate his first-half magic and found himself cold late. Still, he finished with 15 points as BC’s leading scorer. A missed shot by James Karnik in transition sealed the deal for the Eagles, who now find themselves only one game above .500 after a 3–0 start.
“We can grow,” Grant said. “We tried to play some young guys, get a group to mesh. To have this opportunity … it’s definitely a good thing.”
Featured Image by Natalie Wei / Heights Staff