In typical non-conference fashion, Boston College men’s basketball made a game with Sacred Heart much closer than it needed to be. The Eagles built a first-half lead as large as 20, but had to sweat it out down the stretch in an 81-73 win—the visiting Pioneers cut the lead to just seven with a minute left. BC (6-1) managed to close out the win, though, leaning on freshman Wynston Tabbs. The guard hit all four of his free throws in the final minute and finished with a career-best 28 points, an impressive performance as he continues to leave his mark on the backcourt spot previously occupied by NBA-bound Jerome Robinson.
Here are 10 things that stood out in the win over the Pioneers (3-5), the sixth of the season and fourth in a row for BC, which is off to its best start since the 2007-08 season.
1) Concern: The Eagles did what many expected in the first half, opening up a 20-point lead on Sacred Heart. Everyone was contributing, with five different players scoring multiple baskets in the first 20 minutes. In a similar fashion to the IUPUI loss, however, BC let its opponents get back into the game. This struggle to put away opponents—the Jaguars erased a 14-point first half deficit to hand the Eagles their only loss—could cost them many a conference win.
2) Steady: It’s only non-conference play, yes, but Tabbs has more than demonstrated that he isn’t super susceptible to off nights. He didn’t have the best time in Florida—he fouled out in nine minutes against Wyoming and had his only sub-100 offensive rating game against Loyola Chicago—but his last two games have been more in line with his season thus far. The Leonardtown, Md., product poured in 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals against the Pioneers, running his per-game averages to an impressive 14.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.
3) Inconsistent: One of the most frustrating players for BC thus far has been heralded recruit Jairus Hamilton, with Thursday night’s game a perfect case study. Hamilton was impressive in the opening surge for the Eagles, racking up 10 points—even drilling consecutive 3-pointers—and seven rebounds. After a dunk with three minutes left in the first half, though, he was largely ineffective. Hamilton committed three fouls, including two over a two-minute span in the second, and missed both of his shots in the second period.
4) Struggles: The story of the Fort Myers Tip-Off Championship game was Jordan Chatman, BC’s sharpshooting guard who piled up 20 points to lead the Eagles past the Ramblers. Chatman was 15th in the ACC in 3-point shooting during conference play last year, hitting a 41.1 percent clip, but he’s had his struggles as of late. He finished 0-of-4 from beyond the arc against Sacred Heart, a game removed from a 1-of-8 performance versus the Gophers. Chatman has hit one or less 3-pointer in five of BC’s seven games so far, something that happened just 12 times in 34 games last season.
5) Carefulness: Sacred Heart might’ve entered as one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers, but the Eagles made sure to protect the ball well anyway. BC committed just eight turnovers, tying a season-low previously set in wins over Milwaukee and Wyoming. Ky Bowman, who has lowered his turnover rate each year, didn’t commit a single one despite playing nearly a full game with 39 minutes. He gave up nine in the first three games, but has responded with just five in the last four.
6) Management: Say what you will about the meaning of a starting role, but head coach Jim Christian bringing Nik Popovic off the bench since the center returned from injury has been one of the fifth-year head coach’s best decisions. The junior big man scored 14 or more points for the third game in a row, hitting 5-of-10 shots and pulling in five rebounds. Christian has given Johncarlos Reyes the start in the last three games with both players available, and it’s resulted in an impressive effort from Popovic.
7) Misfire: Christian has also turned to freshman Chris Herren Jr. from time to time for a spark off the bench, as the sharpshooting guard has played at least five minutes in each game this season. It didn’t work on Thursday night, though, as he missed two 3-pointers, one apiece at the midway point of each half. Still, it’s proven to be effective at times—he hit 2-of-3 against Loyola Chicago and hit another alongside a pair of free throws against Wyoming.
8) Mixed Bag: Per usual, Steffon Mitchell had a solid game, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it if you looked at the scoresheet. Mitchell didn’t score a point in the win, but finished a respectable +7 and tallied six rebounds, three steals, and an assist. Still, he also finished 0-of-4 at the free throw line and missed both of his shots from the field, registering an offensive rating of just 32 (remember: an offensive rating of 100 is about average). The free throws are a cause of concern, though, as Mitchell is second in the country in free throw rate—which captures a player’s ability to get to the free throw line—but is connecting on just 57.1 percent of his chances.
9) Elevate: You hear people throw around “the Nation’s Most Dynamic Guard” in reference in Bowman, and his highlight reel block—one of three in the game for the junior—of Sacred Heart’s Jare’l Spellman near the start of the second half was a fitting demonstration. Spellman, who stands 6-foot-10 and takes almost 60 percent of shots at the rim, went up for a two-handed dunk on his 6-foot-1 counterpart. Bowman had other ideas, though, climbing the ladder to send Spellman stumbling after the ball, as it bounced into the corner of the court.
10) Physicality: Entering the game against the Pioneers, BC had outrebounded its opponents in its last three games. This included a plus-7 margin against Minnesota (27th in offensive rebounding percentage) and a plus-8 against Loyola Chicago (fifth in defensive rebounding percentage). So, when the Pioneers—a team ranked 287th in average height and outside the top-100 in both offensive and defensive rebounding—arrived, it was expected that the Eagles would be able to gain an edge on the boards. Instead, in a surprising manner, they picked up two fewer total rebounds than Sacred Heart and were outrebounded by five in the second half, a period in which they were outscored by a 49-47 margin.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor