A late offensive rally ultimately came up short as BC men’s basketball fell 80-70 to Louisville Wednesday night. Finding themselves down as much as 23 in the second half, the Eagles silenced a raucous Cardinal crowd with the heroics of usual suspects Jordan Chatman, Ky Bowman, and Nik Popovic.
The trio contributed all of BC’s points on a 16-0 run that cut the deficit to five with just over two minutes to play. Unfortunately, Louisville’s Jordan Nwora put the finishing touches on a career night with a pair of clutch buckets down the stretch to put the Eagles away.
Nwora, who scored a career high 32 points, was a thorn in BC’s side from the opening tip. Offensively, the Eagles started off hot by taking great care and knocking down open shots. Bowman did a little bit of everything early, finding Popovic underneath for easy buckets and finishing a ridiculous reverse layup over a Louisville defender.
His backcourt running mate, Jordan Chatman, shook off some early season struggles and started to make his three-point shots, putting BC up 28-16 halfway through the first. The run forced Louisville to burn a timeout, and that’s when the Cardinals got started.
With Nwora leading the charge, Louisville relentlessly attacked BC’s zone defense with a barrage of threes and transition layups. Seemingly every Cardinal player on the floor was on fire, while nobody from BC could buy a bucket. The Eagles shot an ugly 3/13 from downtown in the first half.
By the time the dust settled, their 12 point lead had dissipated into a 43-33 halftime deficit.
The start of the second half was more of the same. Louisville used their athleticism to their advantage by forcing the ball inside against Popovic and driving to the rim, seemingly at will. On the other end of the floor, Louisville exposed the Eagles’ lack of offensive playmakers by playing tight man defense. They cut off passing lanes and forced Bowman to work in isolation.
Struggling from the field, Bowman opted to drive as often as he could. However, the Cardinals collapsed on him when he did, forcing turnovers and bad shots.
The lead had ballooned to 71-48 with nine minutes to play, and the Eagles were in desperate need of an offensive spark. Veteran guard Jordan Chatman, who had been struggling this season with his jump shot at a poor 25.8% from three, answered the call for BC late in the game with a string of deep jumpshots.
Chatman has been long awaiting a breakout game. He got back on track Wednesday night to the tune of 21 points, including 6-10 from downtown. Head Coach Jim Christian made great adjustments out of a timeout to set Chatman up and pour some life into the offense.
With Louisville continuing to run a suffocating defense, Christian called upon Nik Popovic to set high screens for Bowman that provided him with the momentum and lanes to reach the rim. Meanwhile, other BC players like Steffon Mitchell and Chris Herron Jr worked hard to set off-ball screens in order to get the hot-handed Chatman space to find open looks.
The offensive adjustments, coupled with a disruptive full-court press, made the perfect recipe for a ferocious Boston College comeback. Mitchell, who thrives in gritty, frantic situations, once again did the dirty work for BC by swatting a pair of shots at the rim and teaming up with Herren Jr to track down steals in Louisville’s half of the court.
While the Cardinals started to get frustrated and clamor for foul calls, the Eagles kept their cool and relied on their veteran trio of Bowman, Chatman, and Popovic to generate offense down the stretch. With Chatman hitting threes and stretching the floor, Ky Bowman used the newfound space inside to snake to the rim for some easy layups and dishes to Popovic.
The massive 16-0 run for the Eagles cut the score to only 75-70 with 1:50 to go, but Nwora spoiled the comeback with a 5-0 run of his own, including a deep three and a transition dunk that put the icing on a 80-70 Louisville victory.
The disappointing loss marks the sixth straight defeat for Boston College, who fell to 9-7 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. On the bright side, the Eagles learned a lot more about themselves on both sides of the floor in their second half comeback.
Coach Christian will need to piece together what made the team successful for stretches on their losing streak into consistent performances. BC will look to get back on track and grab their first ACC win this Sunday when Florida State visits Conte Forum for a noon game.
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