It was closer than perhaps BC fans would’ve like but the Eagles managed to bounce back after their first loss with a narrow 72 to 68 victory over Eastern Washington (EWU). It didn’t always look pretty but BC clawed their way to the victory. EWU’s Jacob Davidson was game’s high scorer with 26 points, while Jay Heath led BC in scoring with 17. However, the star of the night was Nik Popovic who became the 45th BC Eagle to score 1,000 points in his career. Despite the career milestone, Popovic’s focus never left the task at hand. “Great feeling,” he said when asked about the achievement during the post-game press conference, “we had a game to win and I wasn’t really upset about not scoring a thousand points but it’s still a good feeling.”
BC got off to a really hot start, going on a 12 and 0 run to start the game and shooting around 70% from the floor. Things began to change around the 10 minute mark, as BC began to cool down and EWU began to heat up from three. Jacob Davison and Kim Aiken Jr. led the charge for EWU as they slowly whittled down BC’s lead. During that time BC went almost four minutes with just two points off Steffon Mitchell free throws. But thanks to 5 points from CJ Felder, BC was able to hold on to a two point lead going into halftime.
Similar to the first half, the Eagles came out strong with Jay Heath hitting two threes but unlike in the first half, BC was trading scores with EWU, who outscored the Eagles 9-8 in first five minutes of the half. BC seemed to have trouble chasing EWU off the three point line while struggling with their own shooting and sloppy turnovers. While not as hot from the floor, BC made up for it with hard work inside with either contested layups or trips to the foul line. BC made the most of these trips, finishing the game with 73.1 free throw percentage. Throughout the game Jay Heath continued to impress, and not just with his scoring but also his work as rebounder, finishing the game with 8 rebounds. “Big rebounds,” Coach Christian said about Heath’s performance after the game, “I love it when guys make shots, it’s a huge part of the game, but there are a lot of ways to impact the game and the eight rebounds were monstrous, especially against a team that shoots many threes.” EWU took the lead briefly but thanks to big shots from Derryck Thornton and another three-pointer from Heath the Eagles managed to regain the lead.
EWU kept it real tight down the stretch but BC kept making plays to stay ahead. With 2:50 left, BC stymied a potential lead-changing EWU possession, despite giving up at least three offensive rebounds. Steffon Mitchell came in especially clutch in the final minute with two clutch defensive rebounds and a successful, 2 for 2, trip to the free throw line with 24.6 seconds left to give BC a 69-65 lead. After a Jacob Davison three made it a one point game, Nik Popovic grabbed the board on missed BC free-throw and went to the line after being intentionally fouled. He made both giving BC a three point lead. Jared Hamilton sealed the game with a great take-away at half-court and a single free throw to give BC the four point win.
It wasn’t pretty but even when things were tough BC found a way to win. After two straight games of giving up a lot of three, the Eagles will certainly have to work on their perimeter defense, as well as trying and continue clean-up some of the turnovers. As Coach Christian said in his post-game press conference “Too many un-fundamental pass plays, we can’t make those types of turnovers against these types of teams.” Despite the turnovers and not shooting as well in the second half, Coach Christian was happy with his team’s increased efforts on the offensive boards in the second half, “it helps, it’s how you win the game, and we got to bring that every night.” When BC’s offense is clicking, like it was in the first half, and grabbing rebounds like they did it the second half, this is a fun team to watch and one that you wonder could make a little noise in the ACC.