All throughout ACC play, Boston College men’s basketball has relied on five guys: Ky Bowman, Jerome Robinson, Jordan Chatman, Steffon Mitchell, and Nik Popovic. Head coach Jim Christian hasn’t shied away from the fact that his bench has only accounted for 17.5 percent of his team’s total minutes—the second fewest in the nation, per KenPom.com. In his eyes, he’s simply been playing those who gave the Eagles the best chance to win. But ever since Mitchell left Wednesday night’s game against Syracuse with a hamstring contusion, Christian has had no choice but to turn to his bench.
In the regular season finale against Florida State on Saturday afternoon, Luka Kraljevic started at the four, and Ervins Meznieks, Vin Baker Jr., and Johncarlos Reyes all checked in at one point or another. Combined, the group scored 12 points and made up for Mitchell’s lost offensive production—well, at least for the first 34 minutes of regulation. As soon as Meznieks—who recorded a season-high nine points—fouled out, everything went downhill.
Within a minute, the Seminoles assumed the lead for the first time in over 22 minutes of play, dating back to the first half. Led by Braian Angola and Trent Forrest—both of whom logged 21 points—FSU exposed the Eagles’ increasingly poor transition defense, scoring a handful of baskets on the break before BC could even get back on the other end of the court. Fatigue and discipline were one thing, injuries were another. Both Kraljevic and Jerome Robinson hit the deck over the course of the final two minutes of the contest, all but putting the game out of question. In came Avery Wilson and Baker Jr., and down went the Eagles, 85-76.
Just like the teams’ Jan. 15 meeting, the Seminoles (20-10, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) couldn’t buy a bucket in the opening minutes. Not only did FSU struggle from the field, but it could even hold onto the ball. Head coach Leonard Hamilton’s team coughed up the rock seven times in the first seven minutes of the game, handing the Eagles (17-14, 7-11) a bounty of free possessions, right from tip-off. In fact, 12 seconds in, Jerome Robinson forced a Brandon Allen turnover—his first of three in the first five minutes of the period—and went the distance for a game-opening dunk.
BC made the most of FSU’s putrid ball security, stringing together an 8-0 run on the heels of Bowman and Chatman. Bowman converted another Allen turnover into a layup, and Chatman got going from long range, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. Leading, 10-2, the Eagles were clearly in the driver’s seat, even without Mitchell. Dictating the tempo, BC ran up and down the floor, attacking the paint and creating space on the perimeter with effective ball movement. Yet, soon enough, it too went cold.
After C.J. Walker drilled a triple near the top of the arc, cutting FSU’s deficit to five, neither team scored for over two minutes. The high-octane offensive scheme got the best of both groups. Field goals came at a premium and turnovers were all too common. Eventually, Terrance Mann drained a 3-pointer from the wing, and the Seminoles were right back in the thick of things. His shot was contagious—it was only a matter of time before P.J. Savoy jacked up a couple of NBA-range treys, one of which was from the edge of the FSU logo, to steal the lead from the Eagles.
Back-and-forth the two teams went until, of all people, Meznieks triggered a 7-0 BC run. The Latvian junior muscled a layup over Phil Cofer, despite being fouled in the process, marking his first field goal of the season and his first points since Nov. 12. Bowman and Chatman—who teamed up for 22 of the Eagles’ 36 first-half points—took over from there, netting four jumpers and extending BC’s lead to five.
Meznieks wasn’t just a one-trick pony, though. Near the end of the half, he drilled a 3-pointer from the corner. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Forrest answered with one of his own, and the Seminoles closed the period on a 5-2 run to cut their deficit to just two, prior to the break.
Collectively, BC and FSU shot 26-of-62 in the first frame, but both sides came out firing in the back half of play, each draining their first four shots. For the Eagles, three of those were from beyond the arc, just enough of a boost to give BC a seven-point lead—one that it would hold onto for the majority of the period. Bowman, who finished the game with a team-high 22 points, led the charge with a trio of 3-pointers in the first six and a half minutes of the period. Following a relatively quiet half, Robinson got his mojo back, attacking the paint and pulling up from outside.
But every time it looked as if the Eagles created any sort of separation, Angola or Forrest, sometimes together, retaliated. Time and time again, the two pushed the pace, flinging a pass to the one another down the court, effectively catching the BC defense sleeping whenever one of the Eagles’ sharpshooters misfired from the perimeter. Mfiondu Kabengele had his moments—for the most part, though, the Seminoles’ offense rested on the shoulders of its two guards.
Approaching the six-minute mark, Meznieks connected on his second triple of the day, putting the Eagles back up five. Right on cue, Forrest orchestrated a self-made 5-0 run, drawing two Meznieks fouls and forcing one of Robinson’s six turnovers in the process. The two quick personals cut Meznieks’ afternoon short—a huge blow to the Eagles’ ever-important renewed supporting cast.
Forrest wasn’t stopping there. A few possessions later, the sophomore hauled in a defensive rebound and heaved a pass for a wide-open Angola for an emphatic dunk—one that especially resonated with his mother, who had flown out to the game from Colombia for her son’s Senior Day. From there, things only got worse for the Eagles.
With under two minutes to remaining, FSU center Ike Obiagu set a screen for Coffer. Kraljevic didn’t see it coming. His eyes fixed on Coffer, the freshman shimmied right into the elbow of the 7-foot, 240-pound Obiagu, taking a hit to the head. Immediately, Kraljevic fell to the floor and rolled onto his stomach, clearly concussed. On the next possession, Robinson took a spill of his own after Obiagu got a handful of the junior’s face on a layup attempt. He’d soon return to the game, only to get his legs swept under him while contesting an Angola 3-pointer, apparently re-aggravating his elbow injury that he sustained at North Carolina State two weeks ago.
The last minute and a half of play lasted about 30 minutes of real time, since both injuries required replay upon replay to determine whether or not they warranted flagrants. Only one did, and the extra free throws didn’t even affect the outcome. Fittingly, Angola and Forrest capped off the victory with a trio of points scored from the charity stripe.
The status of Robinson and Kraljevic is unknown. Only one thing’s for certain: BC, the 12th seed in the ACC, will face off against Georgia Tech on Tuesday in the first round of the conference tournament. Who will actually suit up for the Eagles is completely up in the air.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor