On a sleepy Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum, when many of the BC faithful stayed home to sleep off last night’s football game, the Eagles were able to hold off the Terriers of St. Francis for a 74-69 win. BC got off to a slow start offensively, shooting just 4-15 to open the game and allowing St. Francis to keep a 4-point lead through the first ten minutes of play. The tide turned when the Eagles committed to lockdown defense, allowing more fast break opportunities that got them to the line. Unlike the last game against Milwaukee, they did not have to move to the zone defense to do so. The Terriers stuck around with some timely threes and were able to take a tie game into the half.
The Eagles began to look like they would pull away as the second half wore on, driven by strong showings from Ky Bowman and Wynston Tabbs. Sloppy play and turnovers, however, let the Terriers hang around deep into the half. Just when it seemed like St. Francis might pull out the upset, Steffon Mitchell jumped into the passing lane for a steal and quickly dished it to Bowman on the break whose layup gave the Eagles a 3-point lead with 2:12 to play. Bowman then immediately stole the St. Francis inbound pass and the Terriers fouled Tabbs on the trap attempt. Tabbs hit both free throws to give BC the 70-65 lead with under two minutes left. St. Francis would be forced to foul in the last 30 seconds and Chatman put a pair of foul shots away to keep the game out of reach. Here are some takeaways from the closer-than-expected win:
The Bright Spots
· Bowman was clutch with back-to-back threes to even the score up at halftime, and as the go to playmaker in the final minutes of the game. Robinson was that guy last season, and Ky looks ready to take on that roll.
· Wynston Tabbs ran the offense with Ky Bowman on the bench for five minutes without the whole offense falling apart. It might seem like a small thing, but Bowman coming out of the game was often disastrous for the Eagles last season. If Tabbs can play legitimate backup point guard when necessary it will be a big deal.
· I was going to say it was a plus that the Eagles didn’t dig themselves into a big first half deficit like they did last time out (and I guess it technically is), but not putting this team away early in the second half was worse. Still, they did what they had to do to execute in crunch time. Even with Bowman fouling out, Jairus Hamilton was able to get the ball to Jordan Chatman on the critical last inbound and Chatman hit his free throws to put the game away. A win is a win is a win, and they didn’t blow this one.
The Concerns Areas
· First half shooting percentage: The foul shooting, for one, kept them from pulling away in the first half. They shot 10-17 in the first half, which will come back to bite them in a conference matchup. They also missed seven threes, many of which were wide open. It was poor shooting that kept this a game for St. Francis.
· Perimeter defense was a sore spot for the team last year, and they let their opponent get off to a hot start behind the three-point line both games so far this season. Letting a team get comfortable from deep is dangerous, and can negate a lot of good things your team is doing in the game by keeping the score close.
· Nik Popovic has played well these first two games, but he will be hard pressed to play 36 minutes when he needs to grind with ACC front courts. It concerned me that Coach Christian has’t been able to use Reyes or Kraljevic more than two minutes each in these games against weaker opponents. It is partially a function of gaining Jairus Hamilton who will eat up some power forward minutes, but the team will need a second true center like Reyes to be able to give some reliable support off the bench once the tougher part of the schedule comes along.
There are still things to work on, but that is what this part of the schedule is for. The Eagles have taken care of business so far, and are 2-0. They will take on IUPUI at 7:00 on Wednesday night at Conte before hitting the road for the Fort Myers Tipoff Tournament and their first real test of the year.