Despite a monstrous first half against North Carolina State, Boston College’s 17-point lead had dwindled down to an 85-85 tie, halting the Eagles’ momentum as time began to run out at Barclays Center Wednesday.
However, a glimmer of hope came from Jerome Robinson as he not only drained a jumper with 17 seconds left to give the Eagles a 2-point edge, but also forced a turnover on an inbound pass seconds later to seal a BC victory.
After an 87-77 win over Georgia Tech on Tuesday, the No. 12 seed Boston College Eagles upset the 5th-seeded NC State Wolfpack 91-87 in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York. Although their strength wavered in the second half, the Eagles held on for the win, advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013.
“Just a tremendous 40-minute game,” said Head Coach Jim Christian. “Both teams played unbelievably hard. I just thought the resilience and the toughness, the mental toughness that we showed down the stretch when they came back was a huge step forward for our team and for our program… to have moments like this makes it all worthwhile.”
BC came out strong, displaying the power above their low seed. Ky Bowman kickstarted the momentum with a monster block followed by a charge. Bowman led scoring in the first half with 12 points, pursued by Jerome Robinson and Nik Popovic with 9 and 8 points, respectively.
Popovic went down with a calf injury 8 minutes in, but Johncarlos Reyes stepped in and notched three rebounds and six points, including a solid dunk, within 6 minutes. Also commanding on defense was Steffon Mitchell, with eight rebounds in the first half and 15 overall.
As the second half rolled around, however, NC State came back with a vengeance, closing in on BC’s lead and shifting the momentum in their direction.
“I knew they would come back,” Christian said. “They’re a good basketball team. You’re talking about one of the top teams in the country, a team that’s gonna go to the NCAA tournament and win games.”
The Wolfpack came back from down 17 points, but never managed to take the lead. In the blink of an eye, BC was clinging to a 2-point lead with 3:28 left in the game – enough time for NC State to take control. The score fluctuated between a tie and a narrow BC lead for the last five minutes.
In the final two and a half minutes of the game, Barclays was electric with fans on the edge of their seats. After Robinson’s jumper with 17 seconds left, the Eagles held on to the lead and never looked back. After a deflected inbounds pass, a steal, and a strange technical on NC State for calling a timeout they didn't have, the Eagles solidified their survival for one more day.
“We knew we were going to have to handle the pressure and we knew they were going to pick up the pressure in the second half, so that was big for us,” Ky Bowman said. “The steal that Jerome had was the biggest play of the night. We went in there knowing that we had to have a smart play, and that was a smart play.”
The Eagles were pleased with their performance in the press conference, noting increased confidence on the court this season. Christian explained that last year, on a technical call, the five guys on the court “would have ran the other way.” This time around, however, three guys wanted to take the shots, a testament to the eagerness and morale of this team.
Jerome Robinson noted that in his first two years with the team, they won two ACC games. Now, they have won two in the last two days.
“We knew that was just a process,” said Robinson. “I mean, I stuck with it, with Coach. It’s hard for some people to see a vision through a smoky mirror. Just sticking to it, we knew it was gonna pay off, and we just listened to coach. He had a vision and it takes the right people to know and just stick with it.”
When asked about playing Clemson on Thursday, Christian did not seem to be worried.
“First, I said to these guys yesterday, they need to start enjoying these moments,” Christian said. “I want these guys to enjoy this moment and not worry about Clemson yet…We just have to regroup and get fresh.”
BC will look to extend even further into uncharted territory as they take on 4-seed Clemson on Thursday at 2 pm.
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