Following a close loss to No. 3 Villanova, the Boston College men’s basketball team (1-1, 0-0 ACC) earned a hard-fought 69-64 win over Rhode Island (0-2, 0-0 A10) in the 2K Empire Classic consolation game, even in the absence of guard Jay Heath.
While transfer Makai Ashton-Langford failed to replicate his Wednesday performance after getting into foul trouble early, Wynston Tabbs carried the Eagles, with a team-high 16 points and 10 boards.
Forward Steffon Mitchell got in on the scoring action as well after a quiet outing against the Wildcats, knocking down six of his 10 shots to the tune of 15 points. Sixth man Rich Kelly was the only other Eagle in double figures, and the senior’s early returns have been promising.
Inefficient shooting from the free throw line and behind the arc ultimately sunk Rhode Island. After knocking down half of their attempts from downtown against Arizona State, the Rams went 3-of-18 from three-point range, with Jim Christian’s small lineup staying vigilant along the perimeter.
Rhode Island also went 9-of-18 on free throws, and while Boston College didn’t fare much better, volume proved key, with the Eagles earning 34 attempts from the line.
Senior guard Fatts Russell led the way for the Rams, tallying a team-high 23 points and shooting 45% from the field in 37 minutes of action. Ultimately, though, his scoring outburst was not enough to carry Rhode Island to the win.
The Rams led 31-30 after a back-and-forth first half, stretching their lead to six halfway through the second frame. Two quick long balls from Luka Kraljevic and Kelly tied the score at 48 before a layup from Tabbs a minute later handed Boston College the lead for good.
Rhode Island stayed close the rest of the way, but could never quite edge out the Eagles on the scoreboard.
Every Rams bucket seemed to be met with a swift response or a Boston College trip to the line, and an and-one layup from Mitchell in the final minutes ballooned the lead to seven, essentially putting the contest out of reach for Head Coach David Cox’s squad.
Undefeated St. John’s (2-0, 0-0 Big East) now awaits Boston College on Monday, and with Heath hopefully back in the fold in short order, this scrappy Eagles squad will have a chance to show just how improved it is from a season ago before ACC play gets underway in December.
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