Final Score: Boston College Eagles 65, DePaul University 62
What a win. The Eagles, who have struggled in close games this year, didn’t have a lead until there were 30 seconds left in the game, but Wynston Tabbs took over down the stretch and willed his team to victory.
After Chris Herren Jr. hit an early three, the Eagles missed their next 15 attempts from long range, which allowed DePaul to control most of the game. The Blue Demons had an 11 point lead midway through the first half, but an 8-0 BC run cut the lead to just four at the intermission. Despite Ky Bowman and Tabbs not being at their best for nearly the whole game, Nik Popovic had a massive game with 19 points and not missing from the free throw line, including four big ones late. Steffon Mitchell also provided eight rebounds off the bench to keep DePaul’s offensive rebounds at bay in the second half. Herren, starting in place of Jordan Chatman, who was out with an ankle injury for the third straight game, finished in double figures again, including hitting a big three pointer towards the end of the game.
Jim Christian had some really good X’s and O’s down the stretch, including an ATO for Bowman to break the streak of 14 missed threes in a row and fouling the Blue Demons in the backcourt before they could get a look from three to tie the game (although, Bowman probably could have given it a couple more seconds). Tabbs, Bowman, and Mitchell all took charges down the stretch, which had to make Coach Christian happy. Plays like that will help the Eagles when they go up against more talented teams in ACC play and give them a chance to make the NCAA tournament. While I’m not ready to anoint this team a tourney team, I don’t think we’ve seen their best basketball yet. They’ll have plenty of opportunities in conference play to build a solid resume.
Both Jairus Hamilton and his brother, Jared Hamilton, gave the Eagles really good minutes, especially with Mitchell limited and Chatman out, but I’m looking to see a lot more out of Jairus. He looks like he hasn’t fully adjusted to the speed of the college game, leading to plenty of charges and blocked shots, but once he does, hopefully in ACC play, his talent and athleticism will allow him to be an X-factor on both sides of the ball. After all, he outplayed Duke freshman and projected lottery pick, Cam Reddish, in high school. Once he gets going, he’s going to be a weapon. Jared will be a great role player off the bench, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where his size and quickness allow him to stay in front of guards and limit penetration, which will be helpful for offense-defense substitutions at the end of games.
The story of this game was Wynston Tabbs taking over down the stretch. At one point late in the contest, he scored 10 straight for the Eagles, including some possessions where he would grab rebounds and take it the other way for buckets. His emergence has been massive for BC this year. He and Ky can both be closers and win games down the stretch. Not making Bowman, who wasn’t at his best tonight, have to be in that position, will make defenses be more creative and allow the team to win more games. Tabbs has a little D-Wade in his game with crafty moves to get to the rim and his ability to stop on a dime and pull up in the midrange.
Either way this is a huge win for the Eagles and should give them some momentum as their non-conference schedule winds down and they move towards ACC play.