Colleges

Virginia 71, BC 54

Mistake-prone BC punished by Virginia

Boston College forward Nik Popovic (21) reaches out to Virginia forward Isaiah Wilkins (21), who recovers a turnover during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

Nik Popovic and the Eagles were down and out against Isaiah Wilkins (left) and Virginia.

Boston College’s dynamic backcourt duo of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson has represented a beacon of hope for Jim Christian’s Eagles, who went winless in 18 Atlantic Coast Conference games last season.

That beacon is more of a blur as Bowman, a freshman, and Robinson, a sophomore, have zipped past opponents to get to the basket and push the pace in transition. Bowman and Robinson entered Wednesday averaging an ACC-best 36.6 points per game in league play, and had helped the Eagles win two of their first five conference contests.

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Coach Tony Bennett and his No. 19 Virginia Cavaliers, famous for twisting opponents into knots with their swarming defense, were the ultimate foil and beat the Eagles, 71-54, at Conte Forum.

Robinson submitted one of his worst outings of the season for the Eagles (9-10, 2-4), who lost their fourth in five games. The sophomore guard scored 9 points, shot 4 for 14, and committed four turnovers. It was the second consecutive poor outing for Robinson, who was 3 for 11 and scored 9 points in a loss to Syracuse last Saturday.

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Bowman, meanwhile, had more turnovers (four) than field goals (three), and scored 7 points.

Bennett made sure his Cavaliers (14-3, 4-2) took a disciplined approach. He hammered the idea of setting a wall behind half court, where his defense could get set. Establish a pickup point there, Bennett told his team, and force BC to work to create shots.

“They love to play fast, and [Bowman is] kind of a one-man fast break,” Bennett said. “When they get going downhill, there’s so many teams in this league that are so good in transition and they’ve moved into that upper echelon how hard they push. We felt if we were set, we could make them work.”

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The Eagles did indeed work, but to no avail. They turned over the ball 16 times and the Cavaliers turned the miscues into 26 points. Ten players scored for Virginia and junior guard Devon Hall led the way with 13.

Ty Jerome made a layup with 8:45 left in the game to give the Cavaliers a 65-39 lead, their largest of the night, as Bennett already had begun to pull his starters. BC ultimately shot 20 of 52 from the field and 5 for 20 on threes.

“I honestly think that they kind of came out and hit us right in the mouth,” Christian said. “We missed a lot of shots on top of the basket. They’re a defensive team and you’ve got to make layups. I thought they were unbelievably good on offense. They were very patient, got great shots, and took advantage of all of our mistakes.

“Did a great job taking us out of transition and that hurt us a little bit. We had shots and against them, the shots that are good shots, you’ve got to make. Early in the game when we had shots we normally make, we didn’t and that fueled them.”

The game was all but over at halftime, when BC trailed Virginia, 42-25.

Virginia needed just 3 minutes, 23 seconds to go on a 15-0 scoring run that gave it a 23-8 lead with 9:47 remaining. Hall scored 6 of the first 10 points of the run and assisted on another hoop. From the start of that run, which began with 13:10 remaining, Virginia outscored BC, 34-17, to end the first half.

The Cavaliers committed just one turnover in the first half — they only had five in the game — and swarmed the Eagles. The result was seven BC turnovers and just eight made field goals. BC did not score a field goal in the first half until nearly five minutes had eclipsed and Nik Popovic hit a layup. Popovic followed with a jumper to tie the score, 8-8, and then the BC offense went silent.

Turnovers have doomed BC in its conference losses. The Eagles turned over the ball 17 times in the first half against Duke Jan. 7, falling into a 53-34 hole before nearly clawing back in a 93-82 loss. Last Saturday, BC coughed up the ball 15 times in the first half and got blown out by Syracuse.

Wednesday night was no different as Virginia took precious care of the basketball and the Eagles attempted ill-advised passes and struggled to hold onto the ball.

“Our team has to grow and learn,” Christian said. “I’m tired of watching us play for 20 minutes how I know we can play for 40 minutes. Twenty minutes in this league is irrelevant. We turn the ball over carelessly. We’ve been doing that for a while.”

If the Eagles don’t correct that misstep Saturday, it will make a tough home contest against No. 9 North Carolina immensely difficult.

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