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Second-Half Collapse Dooms BC in Blowout Loss to Duke

Just 423 days after one of the biggest upsets in program history, it looked, for a moment, like Boston College could do the impossible once again: take down the mighty Duke Blue Devils.

This time on the road in front of a raucous Cameron Indoor crowd, the Eagles clawed their way to a 30-28 halftime advantage behind stout defense and some big-time shots by Ky Bowman. However, the door was slammed shut on dreams of another upset victory when Duke caught fire early in the second half to pull away for an 80-55 Duke victory.

Nik Popovic got the Eagles started offensively by knocking down a pair of early three-pointers, and the team carried that spark with them for the rest of the first half in a back-and-forth slugfest with Duke. On the defensive end, Popovic and his frontcourt ally, Steffon Mitchell, did everything they could to match the energy of Duke’s Marques Bolden and freshman phenom Zion Williamson, faring pretty well early on despite Williamson’s dominance on the offensive glass.

Mitchell rose to the challenge of taking on a star-studded Blue Devils squad and found himself on a highlight reel usually dominated by Duke players. He somehow finished a tumbling, spinning layup of the top of the glass and threw down a putback dunk on the following possession to keep it a one-score game with eight minutes left in the first half. However, Williamson started to wear BC’s frontcourt down with his bruising power and athleticism, and coach Jim Christian turned to his star point guard, Ky Bowman, to keep the momentum in the Eagles’ favor.

Bowman helped maintain a slim Boston College lead late in the half with a deep three-pointer and a floater following a series of deadly crossovers that had commentator Dick Vitale in an uproar. The half ended with BC on top 30-28, but the margin could have been much wider if not for missed dunk attempts by Bowman and forward Jared Hamilton.

The Eagles did a great job in the opening frame of playing aggressive defense and forcing Duke into difficult shot attempts, but the intermission allowed the Blue Devils to regroup and come out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Cam Reddish and Tre Jones knocked down a slew of three-pointers out of the gate to regain the lead for Duke, one that it would never relinquish.

Ky Bowman beat the press with a ferocious jam to stop some of the bleeding, but his night would only go downhill from there. Tre Jones threw Bowman off his game with tight man defense for the entire second half, and he would end up finishing well below his standards with a meager 11 points on 5-17 shooting.

The Eagles proved to be no match for the Blue Devils’ elite athleticism, as they were punished on the glass by Williamson and RJ Barrett bullied his way to the free throw line. Duke’s onslaught in the paint left shooters like Reddish and Jones wide open from the perimeter, and the BC deficit quickly ballooned.

Tensions started to rise halfway through the period when Barrett drove hard to the cup and put his shoulder through Bowman’s chest on what should have been an offensive foul. Barrett came down hard on top of Bowman, who picked up a fourth foul and was visibly shaken up after the play. This prompted Jim Christian to explode at the referees and pick up a technical foul—much to the Duke student section’s delight.

With Bowman on the bench and in foul trouble, Jordan Chatman continued his recent hot streak and sprung to life late with a pair of jump shots and some trips to the free-throw line, but the game had long been over at that point. His team-leading 16 points were a lone bright spot on a dark night for the Eagles, who were outscored by a whopping 52-25 margin in the second half.

The blowout loss marks a third straight defeat for a reeling Boston College team that is desperately seeking a victory with ACC play heating up. Patience is quickly running out for a disappointing BC team that is now sitting at 11-10 on the season, and Jim Christian’s seat could be smoking hot if they fail to win next week against a pair of bottom-of-the-barrel ACC teams in Pittsburgh and Miami. For now, the Eagles will set their sights on getting revenge against Syracuse on the road this Saturday at 2 P.M.

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