It’s probably understandable why there wasn’t a lot of buzz for this game. The eyes of New England are on Kansas City, the snow is just so damn pretty to look at, and the students are probably still hungover from syllabus week. But those who braved the cold got to see the Boston College Eagles put together their best performance of the season as they knocked off the #11 Florida State Seminoles 87-82 for their first conference win. Ky Bowman led all scorers with 37 points on 13-18 shooting, while Mfiondu Kabengele led Florida State with 26. It was an especially impressive performance by Bowman, as FSU Head Coach Leonard Hamilton put: “I’ve never seen a guy play 40 minutes 5 games in a row, then give you 37”
The game started off as well as Jim Christian could have planned. Swarming defense by Popovic and Mitchell in the post limited early opportunities for the Seminoles to put up points. Even more impressive was their ability to overcome their size disadvantage to snatch boards from 7-4 Christ Koumadje and 6-10 Kabengele.
It was even better on the offensive end. Superb ball movement and Bowman opening up 7-7 led to open threes and an early lead as FSU failed to rotate properly. Popovic brought the energy from the defensive to offensive end, punctuated by a beautiful post move that allowed him to gracefully slide past two defenders.
But a 16-1 run in the middle of the first sent FSU surging ahead. Eagle turnovers off the 3/4 court press and poor shooting were largely responsible. By the time Bowman missed first shot with 3 minutes left in the half, the rest of the team had made just 5 total shots. Defensively, the Eagles were caught committing stupid fouls on easy buckets, resulting in far too many “and-1” calls than can be forgiven.
But the Eagles came out fighting in the second half. A 21-4 run to start mirrored the first half, capped by to back-to-back-to-back threes from Chatman. The senior appears to have found his stroke in the last two ACC games. After going 0-1 in the first half, the sharpshooter found his stroke and made 5 treys in the second half, finishing with 17 points. In the end, the Eagles outscored the Noles 51-36 in the second half.
The Eagles stormed to a double digit lead behind an efficient Bowman and Chatman’s scoring, but the engine was Mitchell. Though the forward had just 5 points and zero(!) shot attempts, he put up 8 rebounds (3 offensive) and 4 assists. Should the sophomore ever develop an offensive game, he’ll be among the most valuable players in college basketball.
Stagnant offense by FSU couldn’t last forever, and in the closing minutes the Seminole offense, led by Kabengele, cut the lead to single digits. And when the Eagles could least afford it the turnover bug struck again. A 5-second violation followed by a ball off of Tabbs foot saw everyone in Conte hold their breath. But Bowman’s clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch saw the Eagles hold on for what is hopefully the first of a many ACC wins this season.
A few notes: this win marked number 300 for the man in charge, Jim Christian. He didn’t want it brought up because that’s just the kind of man he is, but he came to the press conference in an athletic shirt because he had been doused in the locker room. It was also the first game where all 5 starters for BC were healthy since the Loyola-Chicago game in late November. We’ve seen some good games and some bad games this year, but this one, in my view, showed the potential for the rest of the year.