Jerome Robinson broke the 20-point barrier for the third-consecutive game, Ky Bowman recorded a double-double, and Steffon Mitchell stepped up with 17 points as the Eagles evened their record in the ACC with a 77-71 win over visiting Wake Forest.
All five of Boston College’s (11-5, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) starters reached double-digits, and woeful shooting to open the second half from the visiting Demon Deacons (8-7, 1-2) allowed the Eagles to pull away. Boosted by Mitchell and season-best’s in free throw attempts and turnovers, BC tied the number of conference wins it had all of last season.
1) Steffon Mitchell
One of just six freshman in the ACC to average 30-plus minutes per game, Mitchell has earned his place in the starting lineup by filling up the stat sheet. He entered Saturday’s game ninth in the conference in rebounding while additionally averaging a block, a steal, and a pair of assists per game.
Against the Demon Deacons, though, he broke out on the offensive end for the first time since a 21-point performance against South Carolina State on Nov. 12. The forward finished second on the team with 17 points, hitting 6-of-13 shots from the field. He knocked down a 3-pointer and added four more points from the charity stripe. Mitchell rose to the occasion when the Eagles needed scoring, and he showed off a mid-range shot that serves as a nice complement to the 3-point and dribble-drive heavy offense.
That’s not to say he slowed down on the defensive side, though. The freshman piled up four blocks, tying a career high that he set on Wednesday against No. 25 Clemson, and a steal, further establishing himself as a capable defender. Standing 6-foot-8, he held his ground against the Wake Forest bigs.
2) Free Throw Shooting
The Eagles entered averaging just under 17 free throw attempts per game—and more than doubled that total against the foul-happy Demon Deacons. BC attempted a season-high 35 free throws, and led by a 10-for-10 day by Robinson, the Eagles made them pay. They finished with a 74.3 percent clip, hitting 26-of-35 for a season high in points from the line.
It also bodes well for close games down the stretch. Wake Forest knocked down several 3-pointers in the closing minutes to pull within six at the one-minute mark. Instead of letting the Demon Deacons back into it, though, BC hit its foul shots. Robinson, Mitchell, Nik Popovic, and Jordan Chatman all took turns hitting both of their free throws. Saturday could very well give BC the confidence it needs to finish off future opponents from the free throw line this season.
3) Ball Security
The last time the Eagles had single-digit turnovers was all the way back in mid-November, the third game of the season against Sacred Heart. After committing just five in that 39-point win, BC went on to average over 14 a game for the next 12 games. That streak came to an end on Saturday, though, as they committed just seven turnovers while forcing 15 in the six-point win.
Leading the charge was Bowman, who came into the game averaging three per contest, but turned in a spotless day. Popovic played 28 minutes and didn’t cough up the ball either, despite averaging almost two. It was an impressive performance for the Eagles, who have had more than enough problems with ball security in recent games.
1) Defending the 3-pointer
It was a combination of open looks and hot hands, but Wake Forest had no trouble knocking down 3-pointers throughout the game. It was the reason they only lost by six, despite shooting under 30 percent from the field in the second half. The duo of Bryant Crawford and Chaundee Brown had plenty of time and space to drain 11 combined triples, and it was especially evident late.
Over the course of the season, opponents are shooting over 34 percent from beyond the arc. Granted, Wake Forest is one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the ACC (fourth), the Eagles will need to work on closing out. Upcoming foes No. 12 North Carolina and No. 24 Florida State rank fifth and sixth at 3-point shooting in the conference, respectively.
2) Jordan Chatman
Sure, Chatman had 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, but it’s far from the explosiveness that Eagles fans quickly grew accustomed too. He was held scoreless until the three-minute mark in the first half as BC has yet to adjust to its opponents’ new defensive schemes. Clemson did an excellent job of denying Chatman a single point in the game prior, and Wake Forest kept up the pressure. The junior is a catch-and-shoot weapon, but if he’s struggling to get any open looks, he struggles to contribute offensively.
Entering the Clemson game, Chatman and the duo of Bowman and Robinson were accounting for over 70 percent of the Eagles scoring. They couldn’t beat the Tigers without him getting on the scoreboard. He had 12 this game, but still, they’ll need more from him in the coming weeks. Teams will let Mitchell shoot from mid-range over giving up a look to Chatman, so until the freshman can replicate his performance day-in and day-out, they’ll need to adjust and create more opportunities for their sharpshooting guard.
3) Bench Depth
To no surprise, the Eagles managed just two bench points over 18 minutes. Head coach Jim Christian has consistently worked in Luka Kraljevic and Johncarlos Reyes in place of Popovic for rest and, occasionally, foul trouble, but neither have really established themselves. Kraljevic went 0-for-3 from the field and missed a pair of free throws, while Reyes had two points and three rebounds in limited action. Vin Baker, Jr. appeared for a brief minute in relief of Chatman, but turned the ball over.
Without depth, following the loss of Teddy Hawkins, BC is in a tough place with conference play in full swing. The ACC is wide open, featuring six ranked teams and six with .500 conference records. Bowman ranks 24th in the country in the percentage of his team’s minutes that he’s played—along with Robinson, he hasn’t had a minute off in the last three games. The basketball season is long, but with just one non-conference game remaining, the Eagles are in a difficult position and bound to have a game or two where they might just run out of gas.
Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff