Last December against Duke, Jerome Robinson drilled a 3-pointer in the face of now-Utah Jazz shooting guard Grayson Allen, handing Boston College men’s basketball a two-point lead over an undefeated and top-ranked Blue Devils team with less than a minute and a half remaining in regulation. The triple—BC’s 15th of the game—all but secured one of the most prominent upsets in program history, as the Eagles ultimately fended off head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team at the free throw line. When the final horn sounded, BC students stormed the court and many began to question how the Eagles took down the titan that is Duke.
It doesn’t take a basketball expert to figure out that BC’s monumental victory hinged on the 3-point shot. In fact, the Eagles, who finished 15-of-26 on the day from beyond the arc, scored 45 of their 89 points (in other words, 50.6 percent of their scoring output) behind the 3-point line. Up against Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr.—future NBA forwards who stand 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-10, respectively—BC had no choice but to attack from the outside. The game strategy was hardly foreign to head coach Jim Christian and his players. After all, the Eagles were one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the ACC, let alone the nation, last year.
When all was said and done, BC finished the 2017-18 season shooting 35.9 percent from downtown, the 118th-best clip in the country, according to KenPom.com. On average, 3-pointers accounted for 33.4 percent of the team’s scoring output, the 109th-highest percentage in the NCAA. BC knocked down 10 or more triples 14 times throughout the year—the Eagles’ first winning season since 2010-11—and shot higher than 40 percent from 3-point land on 11 separate occasions. Of those 11 games, the Eagles won eight.
With Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman, and Jordan Chatman on the court, BC had a chance to beat anyone in the country each and every night, in large part because of their 3-point prowess. All three of them attempted at least 5.7 triples per game and shot over 36 percent from deep.
This year, only one Eagle—Chris Herren Jr.—is on pace to either meet or eclipse that mark, and, as of two weeks ago, he wasn’t even on scholarship.
At the moment, the Eagles (9-3) are shooting a meager 30.7 percent from distance, 287th in the nation and 13th in the ACC. What’s odd is that—other than losing Robinson to the NBA—BC returned just about every player from the 2017-18 roster and reeled in a pair of dynamic scorers in Jairus Hamilton and Wynston Tabbs, both of whom excelled on the perimeter in high school. The 2018 recruiting class also featured the late addition of Herren Jr., who shot 42 percent from long range as a senior at Tabor Academy.
Ever since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, the Eagles have failed to find any sort of rhythm from beyond the arc. BC has only recorded 10 or more 3-pointers in one game all year—an 88-76 win over Wyoming in the first round of the Fort Myers Tip-Off. Perhaps even more telling is that the Eagles have logged five or less in five of their 12 games.
In BC’s three losses this season, it has shot a combined 23-of-64 from downtown, or 35.9 percent. But when it mattered most, the Eagles couldn’t buy a basket from 3-point territory. In the second half of those games, BC only converted a combined seven of its 25 long-range attempts, shooting 28 percent in the final stages of regulation—a figure that reflects the Eagles’ shooting habits thus far in 2018-19. Although hardly drastic in difference, BC has fared worse in the final 20 minutes when jacking up 3-pointers.
Through 12 games, the Eagles are sinking just 29.9 percent of their shots from beyond the arc in the latter portion of play, as opposed to 31.3 percent in the opening 20 minutes of regulation. Neither clip is particularly eye-catching, as both are far below the Division I average (34 percent), but the fact that BC’s outside shooting plunges below the 30-percent mark in the second half is certainly notable.
Because of their lack of marksmanship, the Eagles have experienced a significant change in the point distribution department this year. Three-pointers are only accounting for 25.5 percent of BC’s scoring output, the 51st-lowest percentage in the country—and 6.1 percent below the national average. Bowman and Chatman, two of the team’s most reliable snipers in 2017-18, have taken a step back.
Bowman is shooting 34.2 percent, and, even worse, Chatman is knocking down just 31.8 percent of his 3-point attempts—a 7.7 percent decrease from his 2017-18 average. Granted, the 25-year-old senior has been recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined him for three games, but such a drop is nothing short of a cause for concern.
While Tabbs has been shooting a respectable 34.1 percent from deep, his classmate, Hamilton, has struggled to find his footing beyond the arc. The ESPN 100 recruit—who often fires from the wing—is just 5-of-23 on the year, hovering around 22 percent amid the non-conference slate. Herren Jr., on the other hand, has translated his 3-point shot to the college ranks and is currently shooting 41.7 percent, meaning that he is by and far the most accurate 3-point shooter on the team this season. That said, even he has had his fair share of bumps in the road—just look at the past two games: The Portsmouth, R.I. native has shot a combined 4-of-12 from beyond the arc, watching his season average dip from 45.8 to 41.7 percent.
During Christian’s five years as head coach, BC has never finished a season inside the top 100 for points allowed per game. Last year, what the Eagles lacked on defense, they made up for with their shooting. All season, BC—which has been tied or trailing at halftime four times this year—has had to dig itself out of holes offensively. It has managed to do so more times than not, but against the 34th-weakest non-conference schedule in the nation. When the Eagles kick off ACC play versus No. 10 Virginia Tech—the second-best 3-point shooting team in the nation (45.3 percent)—on Saturday, they’ll have to hope they can fine-tune their stroke.
ACC teams are bigger and stronger than any non-conference opponent that BC has faced thus far. But, regardless of size and talent, the 3-point shot is the ultimate equalizer—whether or not the Eagles can find it remains to be seen.
Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff
Graphics by Andy Backstrom / Heights Editor