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Bowman Injures Knee in Season-Ending ACC Tournament Loss to Wake Forest

Boston College men’s basketball head coach Jim Christian drew it up perfectly. Coming into Tuesday’s first round ACC Tournament game, the third-year Eagles coach knew that he had to take away Wake Forest’s primary scoring option: John Collins. After all, it was Collins, the ACC’s third-leading scorer, who dissected the BC defense back in the two teams’ Jan. 31 matchup.

This time around, BC double-teamed Collins, and ultimately held him to a mere five first-half points—none of which came from the field.

And that wasn’t all the Eagles did to disrupt the Demon Deacons. BC forced eight Wake Forest turnovers in the first 20 minutes, while only coughing up two of its own. It also applied constant pressure on the defensive end. But most importantly, the team showed an unprecedented will to win.

Yet there was one thing Christian couldn’t plan for: an injury to his most valuable player.

Nearing the five-minute mark in the first half, Ky Bowman emphatically blocked a Bryant Crawford shot. But on his way down, the All-ACC Freshman landed awkwardly on his right leg. Bowman grimaced in pain and could not move his knee without assistance. The Barclays Center went silent.

Bowman’s season was finished, and effectively, so was the Eagles’. Wake Forest would go on to extend its halftime lead and defeat BC, 92-78.

The Demon Deacons got out of the gates quickly, hitting their first four 3-pointers—three of which came from Austin Arians. Up 15-5, it appeared as if Wake Forest was already getting away from BC. But the Eagles responded.

BC forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions. The first of which was capped off by a one-handed Bowman slam. And the second ended in a pair of Chatman free throws. From this point forward, BC began to settle into a groove, both offensively and defensively.

The Eagles’ ball screen defense slowed down the Wake Forest attack and limited the Demon Deacons’ scoring opportunities. In fact, Wake Forest only recorded 16 field goal attempts in the opening period. On the other hand, BC was jacking up twice as many.

But just because the Eagles were getting shots, doesn’t mean they were cashing in. A.J. Turner’s first shot of the game consisted of splitting the defense, but then laying the ball up short of the basket. Connar Tava would have a similar miscue later on, except instead of releasing the ball short of the hoop, Tava wound up for a one-handed dunk. He took too long, and the Demon Deacon defense made him pay, swatting the ball away from his grasp.

Mistakes aside, BC was outscoring Wake Forest in the paint, despite a clear size discrepancy. Johncarlos Reyes and Nik Popovic were making timely cuts toward the basket, finding space in the Demon Deacon defense—in large part, due to the Eagles’ perimeter ball movement.

Although Wake Forest was limited from the field, it still found ways to score. The Collins double-team created scoring chances for others on the floor. As a result, Collins routinely dished the ball out to a teammate who could locate the open man. This often resulted in a Demon Deacon trip to the charity stripe, as BC defenders struggled to close the gap between them and the open man without fouling. Wake Forest took advantage of the whistles, shooting 19-of-23 from the free throw line in the first period alone. By the end of the game, it would net a total of 33—one third of which came from Crawford.

Approaching the end of the first half, BC trailed by less than five points. Not because of lights-out shooting or domination on the boards, but because of its demeanor. Whether it was Bowman laying out to save a ball from bouncing out of bounds, or Garland Owens diving to floor to force a jump ball, the Eagles’ hustle was keeping them in the game.

But it was also what doomed them. Bowman’s injury stemmed from a Lebron James-esque, leaping block attempt. Not only was Bowman gone, but so was most of their energy.

Still, the Eagles continued to hang around Wake Forest, as Jordan Chatman and Jerome Robinson carried the load. At intermission, BC was only down six. The Eagles started the second half with a Mo Jeffers jumper and a Owens drive and lay-in, refusing to let Bowman’s injury serve as an excuse or a distraction.

The BC bench, which outscored the Demon Deacons 39-13, helped the Eagles tie the game at the 53. But after that, it was all Wake Forest. More specifically, it was all John Collins. The All-ACC First Team representee tallied 14 second-half points in a variety of fashions. Collins found a rhythm from mid-range and continued to reach the free throw line deep into the second half.

Collins and Co. went on a 20-7 run, establishing a 13-point lead. And for BC, a team that was tired and depleted, that was too much to overcome. Led by Robinson and Chatman, the Eagles chipped in what they could, but the loss was inevitable.

Following the game, Christian acknowledged his team’s progress. But he also added that the program’s rebuilding period is not over.

“This is a process,” Christian said. “I mean it’s one step at a time … there are no miracles out here. You’ve just gotta stay with your process, believe in what you’re doing. I do, and I believe in our kids.”

Last year, BC’s exit from the ACC Tournament served as a culmination of infamy. Tuesday’s highly-contested battle warranted respect and provided a sense of hope.

Featured Image by Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

Collins, Demon Deacons Hand Eagles Sixth Straight Loss

Exactly one person in Conte Forum thought the shot was going in. And that was the man with the ball, Nik Popovic.

The 6-foot-11 center from Bosnia and Herzegovina caught the ball at the top of the key and hoisted it up from beyond the arc, where the freshman had shot just 3-of-13 this season. The crowd collectively let out an audible groan, frustrated by the poor shot selection. But there was something they didn’t know.

The bank was open.

Popovic’s shot bounced high off the backboard and in, the unlikeliest of threes from the unlikeliest of sources, giving Boston College men’s basketball a 52-47 advantage over Wake Forest. It was part of a 9-0 run for the Eagles, during which they regained the lead and extended it to eight points. For a moment, it appeared as if students might be witnessing BC’s first ACC win at home when school is in session—in men’s basketball or football—since 2014.

But John Collins had other ideas. One of the ACC’s best post scorers, Collins answered the Eagles’ run with 13 consecutive points and helped the Demon Deacons hold BC scoreless for  the next five minutes. It was a brutal stretch filled with turnovers and poor defense by the Eagles, which squandered another opportunity at a conference win in a 85-80 loss to Wake (13-9, 4-6 Atlantic Coast), the team’s sixth-straight loss.

Once again, BC (9-14, 2-8) started off slow, with Jordan Chatman being the only one in a rhythm early on. The Brigham Young transfer carried over his hot shooting stroke from Sunday, when he tied a program record with nine 3-pointers in the loss to Virginia Tech. Against the Deacons, Chatman not only showcased his long-range shooting (4-for-6 from 3-point range), but he also mixed in mid-range jumpers and strong drives to the basket. He used the threat of his perimeter shooting to pump fake and blow by defenders, often earning trips to the free throw line where he was a perfect 6-for-6 on the night. Chatman finished with 22 points, which would have been a career-high had he not exploded for 30 points two days prior.

“I’m not surprised at all,” head coach Jim Christian said. “Every shot he takes in practice, every drill we do, is a game shot. He shoots more than anybody on our team. If you do that, at some point, the game rewards you.”

Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson rounded out the Eagles’ balanced scoring attack, adding 18 and 17 points, respectively. Bowman was lethal from outside, nailing 4-of-5 attempts from downtown. Robinson, on the other hand, struggled from deep but maneuvered inside for difficult finishes and nifty fadeaways. The backcourt duo also combined for seven assists and six turnovers.

Ultimately, it was the timing of Collins’ uber-efficient run and BC’s scoring drought late in the game that spelled defeat for Christian’s squad. Collins finished with a monster stat line of 26 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks for his ninth double-double of the season. But he also had help from his sharpshooters, Bryant Crawford and Austin Arians, who totaled seven 3-pointers between them and finished with 29 combined points. Their effort helped nearly double Wake’s 3-point shooting clip in the second half, up from 36 percent to a blistering 70 percent mark.

Plus, foul trouble for BC’s frontcourt did little to help the cause. Both Mo Jeffers and Nik Popovic picked up five fouls, allowing Collins to live at the charity stripe in the second half. Not to mention it forced 6-foot-6 Connar Tava to guard the 6-foot-10 Collins for the final minutes of the game, creating a very exploitable mismatch down low.

For his part, Tava put forth a solid effort, keeping Collins out of the paint as best he could. Nevertheless, Collins and the Deacons built up a six-point lead in the final minute of play. Ky Bowman made it a one-possession game with 11 seconds remaining, drilling his fourth triple of the evening, but the Eagles still needed the ball back without fouling. Christian’s full-court press was effective, forcing Wake to call timeout on the inbounds play.

On the Deacons’ second try, they passed the ball in and a swarm of BC defenders pressured the ball without fouling, ultimately forcing a jump ball. Unfortunately, neither the possession arrow nor the basketball gods were in the Eagles’ favor, giving Wake a third chance to inbound the ball. This time, the Deacons executed and iced the game with a pair of free throws.

At this point, it’s beginning to sound like a broken record. The bright spots are there. The guards are among the ACC’s most talented scorers. Hell, even the undersized frontcourt, at times, shows it has heart when competing against the Goliaths of the conference.

Regardless, a loss is a loss. And this one will sting even more because it felt like the Eagles let it slip away.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor