Syracuse Completes Season Sweep of Eagles in 67-56 Victory
By: Bryan Bruwer
On Saturday, the Boston College Eagles (11-11, 2-8 ACC) traveled to the Carrier Dome to take on the Syracuse Orange (17-7, 8-3 ACC). The Orange were looking to complete a season sweep of the Eagles, previously knocking off BC by a score of 77-71 at Conte Forum less than two weeks ago on January 30th. Ky Bowman was not in the starting lineup for the Eagles due to apparently disciplinary action taken by coach Jim Christian outlined in a statement released by the team. However, Bowman was available off the bench in this one.
Without Bowman on the floor, the Eagles got off to an ice-cold start, missing their first ten field goal attempts. Bowman then provided a spark off the bench, scoring a quick five points and keeping the Eagles in the game for much of the first half. Early on, the Eagles did a good job defending Tyus Battle, who scored a meager six points in the first half (Battle dropped 31 on the Eagles on January 30th). BC struggled from beyond the arc in the first half, shooting only 1/9 (11.1%) while the Orange shot a cool 5/12 (41.7%) from deep.
Much like in the first meeting between these teams, Syracuse’s bench provided a major boost. Buddy Boeheim, son of head coach Jim Boeheim, scorched BC off the bench, scoring 11 first half points. Marek Dolezaj also contributed five points, meaning that Boeheim and Dolezaj outscored all five of Syracuse’s starters in the first half as the Orange took a 31-24 lead into the half.
Coming out of halftime, the Eagles struggled to keep it together, as they suffered a series of unfortunate injuries. Just under two minutes into the second half, Nik Popovic was injured after being hit in the nose while battling for a rebound, and while he was down, the Orange came down and hit a three to extend their lead to ten (36-26). Popovic immediately went back to the locker room and was replaced by Johncarlos Reyes. Less than a minute later, Steffon Mitchell landed awkwardly on his taped up left knee after drawing a foul. He left the court under his own power, albeit gingerly, as Reyes took the free throws in his place. Mitchell would later head to the locker room. The Eagles, already without Wynston Tabbs, were now missing three of their five regular starters.
Despite being short-handed, the Eagles continued to fight hard. Ky Bowman hit a three to cut the Cuse lead to seven, but Buddy Boeheim answered with a triple of his own. Steffon Mitchell would return to game with around 14 minutes remaining, but his impact would be limited. It was then announced that Popovic had entered concussion protocol and would not return, leaving BC without their go-to scorer down low, and forcing them to go small.
The Eagles really struggled on the offensive end midway through the second half, turning the ball over repeatedly and suffering through a four minute scoring drought. While the Eagles struggled to get open looks, the Orange began to pull away, extending their lead to 14 with 12 minutes remaining. Ky Bowman singlehandedly kept the Eagles in this one, hitting back to back threes cut the lead down to 10, before Tyus Battle answered back with and-one.
Battle really started to heat-up at this point, running in transition and capitalizing on BC turnovers for easy layups. The Orange then went on a 10-0 run and pushed the lead to 20 after a transition alley-oop to Battle, officially commencing the start of garbage time (or so we thought).
When it looked like all was lost, the Eagles then went on a 14-0 run of their own, spearheaded by who else than Ky Bowman, cutting the Syracuse lead to just six with just under four minutes left to play in regulation. However, it was still an uphill battle for BC. The Eagles turned the ball over on two consecutive possessions, allowing Syracuse to push the lead back to ten.
The nail in the coffin for BC was when Jordan Chatman, an 82.4% free-throw shooter, missed two free throws with a chance to cut the lead to six with a hair under two minutes left. The Eagles would never recover, dropping this one by a score of 67-56.
Although BC failed to leave the Carrier Dome with a W, there was a lot to like about how the Eagles played. Ky Bowman was outstanding, finishing with 21 points and 8 rebounds on 5/8 shooting from deep. The Eagles also kept this game competitive in a hostile road environment without their go-to low-post scorer, Nik Popovic, who hopefully makes a speedy recovery.
Despite these positive takeaways, the Eagles failed to learn from their first meeting with the Orange, as Buddy Boeheim (who scored a career high 16 points off the bench) and Tyus Battle (21 points) ran roughshod on BC once again. The offense also looked anemic without the guiding hand of Ky Bowman running the point, which obviously raises questions for the post-Bowman era, which is likely coming sooner rather than later.
The Eagles are next in action on Tuesday at Conte Forum against the Pittsburgh Panthers, while Syracuse will hit the road for a matchup against NC State on Wednesday.