“It’s irrelevant how old you are, whether you can figure it out or not, that’s what’s important.”
Red alert, ladies and gentlemen, red alert. Boston College men’s basketball just took down the Blue Devils. This is not a drill.
Okay, it’s kind of a drill. The Blue Devils in question are from Central Connecticut State University—not exactly the same as the defending national champions from Durham, N.C. Nevertheless, it’ll count as a win for this young Eagles team in the standings on tomorrow’s early presses.
And after falling down all-around early in the first half, the Eagles (2-0) ran away in the final 30 minutes, blowing out CCSU (0-3), 82-57.
BC’s early problems stemmed from slow starts from the team’s two senior leaders: Dennis Clifford and Eli Carter. The 7-foot center struggled offensively, reigning in rebounds but getting pushed back far enough to prevent easy layups. As for Carter, BC’s leading scorer in the season-opener against St. Francis (N.Y.), he simply couldn’t find his shot, missing all seven of his attempts from the floor. Still, Carter made plays, including one where he purposefully angled a shot attempt off the backboard to land perfectly in Clifford’s hand for the easy putback.
When the veterans faltered in scoring, the young guns stepped to the plate. Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, Matt Milon, and Ervins Meznieks all lit up the scoreboard from beyond the arc. The three freshmen combined to hit 6-of-9 three-pointers in the first, helping the Eagles on a 13-2 run at one point in the latter part of the first.
Head coach Jim Christian was impressed with the quick adjustment made by his freshmen, many of whom occupy the Eagles’ bench. “The first time they went in, they looked very tentative, and not executing,” Christian said. “And then the second time, they played a little looser.”
But like in the season-opener, it was one freshman in particular who lifted his team. Jerome Robinson, who grabbed America’s attention with a SportsCenter-worthy dunk on Saturday, took over on Thursday, knocking down 6-of-9 shots for 13 points.
His best play didn’t come with Andy Jick screaming his name.
While playing the point with Carter on the bench, Robinson took the ball up and dribbled along the baseline. He split two defenders and caught a third eyeing Meznieks in the corner, wide open. Robinson took advantage, sending a quick touch pass through the defender’s legs, allowing Meznieks to catch it on a bounce to nail down the trey.
When asked about after the game, Christian tempered his young player’s ego after two games against comparatively weaker, non-conference opponents. “Don’t act like he did it on purpose,” Christian said, inciting a laugh from the Conte Forum media suite.
Robinson’s sheepish smile would imply that he knew exactly what he was doing.
The second half flipped, as the Eagles came out focusing on defense while slowing the ball down and making more calculated shots. BC held the Blue Devils to a mere 24 points in the second on only 25.8 percent shooting from the field (1-for-9 from 3-point range). A big key came in shutting down junior guard J.J. Cratit. In the first, Cratit did everything he could to keep the game close, shooting 6-of-9 for 15 points. But by the second, he had nothing, shooting 1-of-7 in the second, including going 0-for-the-game from 3-point range. Defensively, Christian credited a lot of that success to his guards’ ability to get rebounds in the back 20.
Oh, and that Carter guy found his footing, too. The Eagles’ de facto leader scored 16 points in the second, focusing less on making jump shots and more on driving to the rim and forcing his way through a sea of defenders.
Once the game was handily out of reach, Christian sent in the reserves—and it was more than just the typical Steve Perpiglia sighting in blowouts. Christian allowed his two walk-ons to get into the game: 6-foot-8 Aser Ghebremichael from Somerville, Mass., and St. Sebastian’s alumni Jordan Barros, son of BC great, Dana.
Both hit clean, nothing-but-net 3-pointers on their first collegiate shots. Each sent the bench into a frenzy of cheers, smiles, and laughs.
But for Christian, who, with the walk-ons, now has 11 out of 15 players on the roster who have never played in a college game before this year, age is not an excuse for lack of performance. And he’s not going to allow it to be one this season.
“I’m never going to talk about it,” Christian said. “If you want to win, you have to do these things. I don’t care if you’re a freshman or a senior.”
For a fanbase that has heard a lot of age-related excuses this year from other coaches (who shall remain nameless), Christian’s resistance to blaming his team’s youth points to good signs ahead.
Maybe even when they play the real Blue Devils.
Featured Image by Tom DeVoto / Heights Editor