On Sunday afternoon, Boston College men’s basketball was dealt a scare, needing all 40 minutes to fight off a resilient Saint Francis Brooklyn team. Despite being favored by 22, the Eagles were locked in a back-and-forth game, even trailing by a point with four minutes left before pulling away for the narrow five-point win. It was your typical non-conference upset bid, the type that many teams use as a lesson of sorts. So when IUPUI—Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis—arrived on Wednesday night a 16-point underdog many expected BC to cruise.
And for the first half, things were largely falling in place. Riding double-digit efforts from Jordan Chatman and Ky Bowman, the Eagles built a lead as big as 14. Then, the wheels came off. The Jaguars’ duo of guard Camron Justice and center Evan Hall, former high school teammates who took different paths to the same team, guided their team back, eventually pulling off an impressive 76-69 upset win—the first Power Five win for the program, which has suffered seven consecutive losing seasons, since 2002.
“We should’ve learned from Saint Francis—we didn’t,” a disappointed Eagles head coach Jim Christian said after. “We talked a lot about [that game], showed a lot of film about it, but for some reason it’s not registering right now.”
BC (2-1) turned the ball over 15 times and was outrebounded by a hefty 12-point margin, watching as visiting IUPUI (2-1) stormed back. The Eagles managed a paltry 6-for-19 mark from the field in the second half, as Chatman and Bowman combined for just eight shots and nine points. Meanwhile, Justice and Hall were pushing hard to create chances, as the rest of the Jaguars were largely ineffective.
Justice, a transfer from Vanderbilt, poured in 16 of his game-high 29 points in the second half. The versatile guard outplayed his BC counterpart, getting to the line at will and making the most of his chances—Justice was a perfect 13-for-13 from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Hall, a left-handed big man, thoroughly outplayed BC’s Nik Popovic.
It wasn’t always easy for Hall, though. It was clear that IUPUI head coach Jason Gardner had seen something on the game tape and wanted to get his big man going early—Hall posted up inside four times in the first six minutes. Only one bucket went in, but it set the stage for the rest of the game. He would pick up steam, and as his confidence grew, Popovic’s decreased.
BC’s center, coming off a resurgent sophomore campaign, would eventually foul out having scored just four points on five shots while additionally going a woeful 2-for-8 at the charity stripe—particularly jarring considering he hit at a 71.3 percent rate a season ago.
Hall scored 10 of his 18 points and had seven rebounds in the second half. He was a key part of the decisive 10-rebound edge the Jaguars enjoyed after the break, a mark that helped bring them back from the six-point deficit.
“They knew exactly what the strengths of this team were,” Christian said. “They knew how tough and physical they were—we weren’t surprised. We had no commitment to being tough and physical for 40 minutes today.”
Justice and Hall worked together particularly well in the pick-and-roll and screen games, with Justice’s biggest 3-pointer, one of just two he hit despite 12 attempts, coming after a screen from Hall forced an awkward switch.
Of the 40-point second half from IUPUI, just 14 points were scored by players other than the high school pals. Five of those belonged to guard Nick Rogers, who came up big when his team needed him to the most.
With 1:01 on the clock, BC’s Wynston Tabbs—who had another strong game—hit the second of a pair of free throws to close the gap to just three. The Jaguars struggled to find anything on the other end, and with the shot clock near zero, D.J. McCall, in desperation, kicked the ball out to Rogers, who was standing near the half court logo. Rogers caught the ball with two seconds left, took a dribble forward, and launched a high-arcing shot over the outstretched arms of Tabbs. It was a perfect swish, the final dagger in a huge win for a program that is five years removed from managing just six wins total.
Tabbs finished with 15 points, hitting or eclipsing that mark for the third game in a row. Chatman led BC with 20, but disappeared in the second half, attempting just two shots in the latter portion of play. The Eagles struggled to create chances and, with the rebound discrepancy, getting out and running in transition or scoring easy put-backs was difficult.
“A lot of [Chatman’s] shots were in transition in the first half—that’s when we’re at our best,” Christian said. “If we don’t rebound, you can’t get stops, you can’t push the ball in transition. We didn’t execute at all in the half court, and it all led to it.”
The loss was unexpected, especially with BC heading into the game as 16-point favorites, but having watched the Terriers hang around on Sunday, it wasn’t as big of a surprise. Once the Eagles started to break down in the second half, committing reckless turnovers and failing to get anything on the glass, even Christian saw the inevitable downfall.
“When we got a 10-point lead, I thought we stopped playing,” he said.
Now, with a rough non-conference loss on its resume and a similarly close one the game prior, BC finds itself in a spot where it needs to learn, fast. IUPUI was more aggressive on the boards and faster to 50-50 balls, and despite shooting just 33 percent from the field in the second half, it willed itself past a stagnant home team—and that’s a recipe for disaster, especially come mid-season.
Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff