The Barclays Center Classic proved the Eagles have a lot of work ahead to do before they’re able to battle against more competitive teams
HELL-O BROOKLYN – The trip to Brooklyn for the 5th edition of the Barclays Center Classic was a painful one for coach Christian and the Boston College Eagles (3-3). After beating Towson and improving to 3-1, BC flew to the state of New York hoping to continue its streak and upset respected teams like Maryland (7-0), Kansas State (5-1) and Richmond (4-2). However boosted the Eagles’ morale might have been while rocking a three-game winning streak, the team faced a brutal reality check over the weekend.
On Friday, BC faced the Kansas State Wildcats for the first game of the tournament. The game was hardly competitive, as K-State jumped on an early lead and never looked back. This proved to be a problem for coach Christian’s squad since as early as the season opener against Nicholls State, even if the following games didn’t seem to pose a similar threat, as BC had started all the other games strong. This time, however, it was not the case. After an early tie at 7-7, halfway through the first half, the Eagles suffered an 11-2 run that allowed the opponents to score at will. At the same time, BC was struggling to control the ball on offense and to find any sort of answer on defense. The two teams finished the first half with the score of 31-22. Although the hole was far from being insurmountable, the Eagles never fought back with a believable plan nor with consistency. The second half followed a similar pattern and, by the end of the game, BC had shot only 33% from the field, with 21 turnovers compared to just 11 assists. Jerome Robinson, coming off a career-high of 24 points against Towson, was just 3-for-12 for 11 points.
FINAL SCORE: BC 54 – K-State 72
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On Saturday, BC faced Richmond, who had lost the previous game in OT against Maryland 88-82, in the consolation game. This time Jerome Robinson made sure to start the game on the right foot, as he went to a personal 5-0 run to open the hostilities, with a triple and a steal converted into a lay-up on a fast-break. Mo Jeffers found himself back to his habit of fouling twice early in the game: he went back to the bench less than 3 minutes after the tipoff. The Eagles were still without big man Nik Popovic, who exited last game with concussion-like symptoms and didn’t recover in time. This, together with Jeffers’ foul troubles, left Freshman Johncarlos Reyes as the only alternative at center. Initially, this didn’t look like a major issue for the Eagles, but as the game went by, it became pivotal.
Robinson appeared to be on a mission for his own redemption: early in the game he could not be contained, especially from distance, as he went on a one-man show. The Sophomore from Raleigh, NC scored 13 of BC’s first 18 points, going for a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, and 3-for-3 from the three-point land. By doing that, he also partially masked its team’s trouble with the net (1-for-5 in total at this point). Propelled by Robinson, BC went on a 10-0 run that brought them to lead 17-8. This is when the magic started to dissipate little by little. First, when Robinson began to run out of gas and eventually headed to the bench, Richmond tried to take advantage of the situation, going on a run of its own and leading the game 18-17 with 7:10 to play in the first half. But after this early run, the Spiders struggled to put points on the board, going scoreless for almost 3 minutes. Luckily for them, BC didn’t do much to separate itself from the opponent and at halftime Richmond had to be happy about going back to the locker room trailing just 33-25. Robinson finished the half 7-for-8 and a perfect 5-for-5 from range.
Early in the second half, during a scuffle at mid-court, Robinson suffered a blow to his neck area that forced BC’s #1 to leave the floor momentarily. Richmond this time used the opportunity to go on a more serious run. Even though the returning Robinson tied the game at 39, at this point the Spiders had already clicked, and put together an impressive 25-10 run, with 16 points in the first 5 minutes and 3 three-pointers in three tries after going 0-13 in the first half. On the other end of the floor, BC went 1-6 for just 6 points. While Robinson started to fade (he went 3-12 in the second half), TJ Cline decided it was time to take off his warm-up jacket.
After a subpar first half, the son of WNBA Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman exploded with a total of 23 points along with 10 rebounds. He put on a clinic in the paint that no big man from coach Christian’s roster was able to defend. Coming off a near triple-double against Maryland (18+9+9), Cline was once more the difference-maker. Robinson tried to regain center stage with an and-1, which lifted his total to 27 point (new career-high), but a subsequent emphatic block by De’Monte Buckingham, turned into an easy layup by Khwan Fore, meant the end of all hopes for the Eagles. After scoring an eye-popping 46% in the first half, BC was a meager 26,7% from the floor in the second. The team proved they can play good basketball against inferior teams, but as soon as BC’s strength was tested by two good competitors, the Eagles didn’t demonstrate they belong to that category just yet. A first step in the right direction could be figuring out who can be the go-to guy when Robinson in on the bench. Next week BC hosts Dartmouth on Dec 3.
FINAL SCORE: BC54 – UR 67
Side note: Maryland won the tournament, beating Kansas State 69-68 in the final game.