On Troy Bell’s big day, it was Jairus Hamilton’s time to shine. After pregame festivities, a bobblehead giveaway, and a halftime jersey retirement ceremony (which was graced by the presence of former BC head coach Al Skinner) all honored Bell, Hamilton led his team to victory over Virginia Tech by a score of 61-56. The sophomore forward scored a career high 23 points, including 15 in the second half, to lead all players. Jay Heath added another 15, and Steffon Mitchell contributed 10 rebounds in the win. Landers Nolley, VT’s star freshman, was held to just 15 points on 7/17 shooting.
The first half started well enough for the Eagles, who knocked down two early treys to take a six point lead. But the offense short circuited shortly thereafter, and efficient ball movement by the Hokies carved open a BC defense that looked as if it couldn’t recover. Overcoming a deficit and building up a lead as large as 10 points in the half on 50% three point shooting, Virginia Tech looked unstoppable for a stretch. The Eagles looked lost on offense, turning the ball over with poor passes and forcing it inside to a Nik Popovic who looked hesitant to exploit his size advantage in the post. Turnovers by both teams prevented both BC from closing the gap and VT from extending the lead.
The Eagles entered halftime down six despite playing poorly. And to their credit, they came out of the locker room looking entirely different on defense. A Hokies team that had lived by the three in the first shot 11% from deep and didn’t make a shot from behind the arc until there was a minute left in the game.
The offense, however, continued to lack rhythm and confidence. At least until the Hamilton brothers both started to take over. In the second half, the two of them combined to go 7/8 for 21 points. Jairus looked as good as he ever has, using his strength to pull down contested rebounds and finesse to hit turnaround jumpers.
All of it was nearly for naught, however. A BC team that has struggled from the line this year decided today would be the best day to go 11/27, including several misses down the stretch that could have made this victory much more comfortable. The Hokies start playing hack-a-Shaq with 5 minutes left and the Eagles continuously justified their game. And though the Eagles might have gotten away with it this time, poor free throw shooting will undoubtedly come back to bite them again some time soon.
For now though, let us all celebrate beating a team that nobody expected us to and take joy in knowing that when Virginia Tech misses the tournament this year, this loss played a major role.
Also congrats to Bell, who finally gets honored and to Skinner, who finally was welcomed back.