Some nights are just easier than others. On Wednesday night, that might have been the case for the Boston College Eagles (4-1). For stretches of the game, the Eagles looked very good. There were other times when things did not go as well. In the end, free throwing shooting and rebounding were key late in the game as Boston College picked up there second win in the Gotham Classic 72-68 over Eastern Washington (2-2).
BC head coach Jim Christian thought his team “took their feet off the gas pedal tonight.” The first half was a good example of what he meant. Boston College came out strong, starting the game on a 12-0 run. It had the feel of an easy night for the home team. However, the Eagles would score only 21 points for the rest of the half. Sloppy turnovers, four from senior guard Derryck Thornton, helped to keep Eastern Washington in the first half. Back to back three’s from Jacob Davison (26 points, seven rebounds,) would cut the Eagles lead to four at 21-17 with 8:29 left in the first half. When Davison took the ball to the basket and dunked it, the lead was down to two at 21-19 with 7:27 left.
BC would increase their lead if only for a short period of time, getting back up seven on a fast break jumper from Thornton (14 points, five assists, six turnovers). With 5:12 left in the half, BC was ahead 26-19. A 9-0 run by Eastern Washington tied the game at 28-28 with three minutes left before halftime. Three-point shots by Tyler Robertson, Kim Aiken Jr. (17 points) and Davison tied the game The team went 13-38 from three-point land for the night. The Eagles went on a mini 5-0 run to take the lead back with all five points scored by C.J. Felder (nine points, five rebounds). Eastern Washington cut the lead to two, on you guessed it, a three from Tyler Kidd. It was 33-31 at the half.
The second half looked a lot like the first twenty minutes for the Eagles. They jumped out to a seven-point lead thanks to an 8-3 run. Six of those points came from Jay Heath (17 points, eight rebounds) with back to back three balls. Much like what happened in the first half, Eastern Washington came back with an 8-0 run to get to within one at 41-40 with 15:08 left in the game. Davison had four and Robertson knocked down a big three to keep Eastern Washington very much in the game. When Davison drilled a three with 12:47 left, Eastern had a one-point lead at 46-45 to the shock of the home crowd. Two free throws by Nik Popovic, who had a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds to become the 45th BC player to score 1,000 points in his career, gave the lead back to Boston College at 47-46 with 12:22 to play.
A Davison bucket in the paint tied the game again at 55-55 with 7:30 to play. Once again, the Eagles gave themselves some room to breathe with a 5-0 run. A Jared Hamilton basket (12 points, four steals) put the lead to five with six minutes left. Again, it was Eastern Washington’s turn to answer and they did with a 7-0 run. An Aiken Jr. three gave his team the lead back at 62-60 with 3:44 to play and forced the Eagles to call time out. The see-saw was on with both teams going back and forth in the latter stages of the second half. BC grabbed the lead back only to lose it on another three from Robertson to make it 65-64 with under two to go.
A Heath three and two free throws by Mitchell again had BC back in the lead. This time they would never give it back. Free throws in the final seconds from Popovic and Hamilton gave BC the win 72-68.
After the game coach Christian talked about “the little things his team did down the stretch that helped to win the game.” The free throw shooting and the rebounding on the offensive end were key. Nik Popovic said, “it was a great feeling to join the thousand point club.” But he was more interested in winning the game. His coach pointed out how Nik handles mistakes better now than when he did as a younger player and how he practices well and plays hard in games. BC will take a break from the Gotham Classic to play DePaul on Saturday at noon.