BC Comes Back to Beat Colgate, 83-79
By Ben Neuwirth
The Boston College Eagles (5-1) defeated the Colgate Raiders (2-2) Wednesday in Conte Forum in a 83-79 thriller.
Although a Patriot league team, Colgate returns 3 of their top shooters from last season, Will Rayman, Jordan Swopshire and Sean O’Brien, and their experience playing together showed early as this trio and the rest of the Raiders combined for 10 three pointers over the first 23 minutes of gameplay. They were whipping the ball around the perimeter and hitting a number of highly contested shots from downtown, O’Brien in particular seemed completely unfazed by any defense.
As well as the Raiders started out the game, BC played equally bad as they started just 1-7 from the floor and committed a multitude of offensive fouls and traveling violations, although some of these calls were a result of questionable officiating. Nevertheless, over the first 10 minutes of game play the Eagles hit just as many shots as they had turnovers, 9.
Jerome Robinson had a terrific night, his jump shot was fire, the euro step was working to perfection and he finished with 26 points on only 13 shots, his beginning season skid seems to be over. Along with Ky Bowman, who’s passing prowess, especially in transition, was evident tonight, the two guards were able to keep BC toe-to-toe with Colgate through the first 14 minutes.
However a smart adjustment by Coach Matt Langel had the Raiders come out in a aggressive, trapping zone that completely befuddled the Eagles’ offense. Their normal kick and drive style was ineffective as the turnovers continued to pile up. Often resulting in Raider threes on the other end. A lack of production from the supporting players, outside of Bowman and Robinson BC shot 4-15 in the 1st half, had the home team down 41-27 at the half, a shocking result.
The first 3 minutes of the later period continued similarly as a lethargic maroon and gold offense and lazy defense coughed up more turnovers and allowed even more Colgate 3’s. Then, down 17 points with 17 minutes left to play, Coach Jim Christian turned to the lineup that ultimatly won him the game.
The Ky Bowman – Jerome Robinson – Jordan Chatman – Steffon Mitchell – Deontae Hawkins lineup absolutely roasted the Raiders, putting up a +25 margin in just over 13 minutes and giving the Eagles a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. There were two keys to this lineup. First was the increased spacing it provided on offense. Teams need to guard both Hawkins and Mitchell from beyond the arc, so when Ky or ‘Rome put it on the floor, instead of having the opposing center take a step from guarding Popovic on the low block, they must run all the way from the three point line, giving the drivers a little more time. Even if they get there, having to close out on a 3-pointer is much more difficult than contesting a mid range J.
Secondly this lineup unlocked BC’s defensive potential, putting two tenacious and quick footed big men in the lineup. While the Eagles already switch often with their normal lineups, any player in this group can guard from 1-5 and their speed allowed them to help harder and more often, forcing errant passes from the Raiders who ended with 16 turnovers on the day, just 1 less than BC. Steffon Mitchell in particular was all over the place, grabbing steals, blocking shots and in one particularly memorable sequence stared down Colgate PG Sean O’Brien and moving with him step for step, earning an ovation from the bench and the crowd.
This game was clear evidence that BC’s five best players are Bowman, Robinson, Chatman, Mitchell and Hawkins and when Christian puts them all on the floor together, the Eagles are at their best. Last year’s team might’ve folded under the pressure of being down 14 to a team everyone expects you to beat but this year’s squad has mental fortitude and came through when tested. They have toughness and a nuclear lineup they can throw out there. We’ll see how far that takes them.