Providence guard A.J. Reeves hit a last-second 3-pointer to force overtime, and Boston College men’s basketball wasn’t able to keep up in the ensuing free throw slugfest, falling 100-95, to the visiting Friars in front of a packed Conte Forum on Tuesday night. All but six points in the five-minute overtime session came at the charity stripe, and it was Providence (7-2) that escaped with the five-point win behind 5-of-6 free throw shooting from redshirt senior guard Isaiah Jackson.
Here are 10 things that stood out in the loss to the Friars, who came to Conte Forum and beat the Eagles (6-2) on their home court for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
1) Thriller: The win probability swings in this were remarkable. Providence saw its peak at 68.8 percent in the first half, only to watch the Eagles claw back and eventually build a 94.9 percent advantage—they led, 87-84, with 11.3 seconds left. Of course, it was Reeves who erased that with one swish, knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to force overtime. The game briefly swung back in BC’s favor, and it was a 50-50 toss-up when the Friars held a one-point lead with three minutes left, but the Friars hit their shots down the stretch to escape. Oh, and there were 13 lead changes.
2) Concern: Nik Popovic missed the game after a concussion suffered in practice, and his absence was felt. BC is perilously thin when it comes to size down low, as Popovic, standing 6-foot-11, is the tallest player on the roster getting minutes. Without him, Christian had to resort to trying to use Johncarlos Reyes (12 minutes) and Luka Kraljevic (five minutes)—both were ineffective. Providence took advantage, too, as Nate Watson came off the bench and the 6-foot-10 center had his way inside. When he was on the floor, the Friars held a 14-point edge, and his 19 points and 10 rebounds reflected the dominance inside. If Popovic continues to grapple with injuries, any team with talent in the low post will be able to thrive—Providence had a 44-30 edge in points in the paint.
3) Boost: The story of the first half was the play of BC freshman guard Chris Herren, Jr. The 6-foot-3 freshman from Portsmouth, R.I., came off the bench in relief of Ky Bowman, who ran into early foul trouble. Herren, Jr. set up teammate Jairus Hamilton for an emphatic dunk, then, with his team trailing by eight, sparked a 15-0 run. He drained a 3-pointer after a good screen from Steffon Mitchell, who then found him in the corner a few possessions later for another three. The Friars lead had shrunk to one, and Herren, Jr. wasn’t done—he stole the ball to set up a Jordan Chatman layup, then connected on a wide-open 3-pointer from the same spot Reeves would hit for later in the game to push BC’s lead to four and send the student section into a frenzy. He finished as one of three players on the Eagles with a positive plus-minus.
4) Whistles: By the end of the game, four players between the two teams had fouled out. Providence committed 29 fouls to BC’s 27, and it was decisively stop-and-start in the second half onwards. Every little thing was being called, and it disrupted the flow of the game and resulted in many a jeer directed at the referees from Friars and Eagles’ fans alike.
5) Presence: This likely goes without saying, but if Steffon Mitchell wasn’t on the court, BC easily would’ve lost by double-digits. The forward played at an elite level on Tuesday, working hard to make up the size gap on defense and coming up huge time again. He filled the box score to the tune of 10 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, four assists, and two blocks. Mitchell played all 45 minutes and committed just two fouls, only one that came in regulation. He paces the nation in free throw rate, and hit 71.4 percent of his 14 attempts, above his season average of 44 percent.
6) Takeover: Chatman has shown flashes this season of his capability to take over games, which is what Jerome Robinson did for much of last year. That was on display in the second half, where he came out of the break with 11 points and promptly scored his team’s first eight points. He hit a silky smooth fadeaway jumper to open his second-half ledger, then followed with a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer and a trio of free throws. The senior finished with 28 points, going a perfect 9-of-9 from the line and 8-of-12 from the field.
7) Homecoming: Reeves went to the Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, Mass., just a stone’s throw from BC’s campus. He graduated last year, and his return to Chestnut Hill couldn’t have gone smoother. The freshman guard entered with a pair of 20-point games on the season, but had grappled with inconsistency. He chipped in seven first-half points before, like Chatman, erupting in the second half. The guard would finish with 24 points, including eight consecutive points for his team during one spurt, and hit a season-defining shot off of a pin-down screen to force overtime.
8) Ball Don’t Lie: The age-old idiom was on full display when Bowman was whistled for a foul in the far corner on a Reeves’ 3-point attempt. It didn’t seem—either live or on the ensuing replay—that Bowman touched Reeves, but it sent him to the line for three shots in overtime. The Friars were clinging to a one-point lead, but Reeves, a nearly 80 percent free throw shooter, missed the first two badly before hitting the third. This was much to the delight of the BC student section, with several “ball don’t lie” chants raining down.
9) Breakout: Providence guard Alpha Diallo is an NBA hopeful, but for the entire first half, he was a non-factor. The lengthy junior guard was 0-of-8 from the field and had just two free throws to his name at the half. Fittingly, with Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge watching from courtside, he played a key role in guiding his team back. Diallo had 13 second-half points, impressing onlookers with seven points on successive possessions at one point. He fouled out before overtime, but recovered from a rough first half with 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
10) Emphatic: Hamilton, thunderous dunk in the lane off of Herren’s feed included, finished with a career-high 13 points. He ultimately fouled out and also had three turnovers—traveling twice and throwing a bad pass—but the freshman has taken leaps and strides with each game. Hamilton was strong on defense and pulled in five defensive boards (six total). He now has back-to-back double-digit games and his offensive rating cleared 100 each time, a far cry from his woeful 17 rating against Minnesota.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor