On New Year’s Day, Boston College men’s basketball rung in the new year with its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory since March 10, 2015. Thanks to a scorching shooting performance from the field, the Eagles crushed Syracuse, 96-81 at Conte Forum. Two weeks later, these two long-time rivals clashed again at the Carrier Dome. BC looked to build off its upset win over North Carolina State, while the Orange sought to avenge its previous defeat against the Eagles.
Unfortunately for head coach Jim Christian & Co., BC couldn’t keep the momentum going on the road against Syracuse, turning the ball over 20 times in a 76-53 loss.
The Eagles (9-9, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) and Orange (11-7, 3-2) traded baskets for the first eight minutes of the game. A Ky Bowman 3-pointer with 13 minutes remaining in the half gave BC its first lead of the game, 13-12. The Eagles would soon learn, however, that this Syracuse team made some adjustments with its signature zone defense. Syracuse would go on a 14-2 run over the next nine minutes, a span where the Eagles were held without a made field goal. While Syracuse’s zone appeared significantly better than a couple weeks ago, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot with their sloppy play.
In the first matchup between these two teams, BC had 13 turnovers. On Saturday, the Eagles coughed up 15 turnovers in the first half alone, leading to 14 points in transition for Syracuse. Even when the Eagles held onto possession, the shots weren’t falling either. BC shot 36.4 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point territory, generating only four assists. Overall, the Eagles offense lacked the same effectiveness and flow that we saw in the first meeting against Syracuse. In addition to all of these woes, BC found many of its key players in foul trouble in the first half. Bowman, A.J. Turner, Mo Jeffers, and Garland Owens each had two fouls, leading to limited minutes and a free throw disparity. After a rough 20 minutes, the Eagles found themselves down by 13 at the break.
The second half brought many of the same miscues that hurt the Eagles in the first half. BC continued to turn the ball over and have many poor offensive possessions. The backcourt of Bowman and Jerome Robinson struggled to get anything going all game. Bowman finished with three points and Robinson with nine points as they shot a combined 4-for-20 from the field. The Eagles shot just 40 percent from the field. BC’s zone defense also did not show the same effectiveness as the Syracuse zone. Although the Eagles held the Orange largely in check in the first half, Syracuse’s offense tacked on in the second half. Syracuse pulled away from the Eagles and, with a 20-point lead built up in the second half, coasted to the finish line.
The common theme for the Eagles this season is that their success depends on the success of Bowman and Robinson. Since emerging into the starting lineup, Bowman has taken over as the team’s point guard and playmaker alongside Robinson in the backcourt. The freshman has improved over the course of the season, but was held to just one three-point field goal in the loss. The Syracuse zone also shut down Robinson, who came into the matchup with eight consecutive 20-point games.
While both Bowman and Robinson need to perform at their potential for the Eagles to be successful, other players like Turner, Connor Tava, and others need to step up to create a more consistent offensive attack. Nik Popovic was one of the lone bright spots in the blowout loss. He stepped up and led BC with 13 points and seven rebounds in the effort. Although his production was encouraging, the Eagles need more players to contribute on a consistent basis offensively to produce positive results going forward.
Despite bad early losses to teams like Nichols State, Fairfield, and Hartford, BC has shown reasons for optimism based on their conference play thus far. With upset wins against Syracuse and North Carolina State, the Eagles have proven that they can compete with some of the teams in the conference. Although they had a setback in the loss to Syracuse, Bowman and Robinson’s emergence should encourage BC fans about the potential with this team later this season and for years to come.
Featured Image by Nick Lisi / AP Photo