Zackery Sparks Eagles Against Reeling FSU to Snap Five-Game Skid
basketball Edit

Zackery Sparks Eagles Against Reeling FSU to Snap Five-Game Skid

Photo courtesy of BC Men's Basketball
Photo courtesy of BC Men's Basketball

James Karnik said he’ll have it memorized by the end of the season. The Boston College men’s basketball center thinks he’s heard it about a dozen times this year.

His freshman point guard, Jaeden Zackery, nodded.

That it is from Galatians 6:9, a Bible verse that reads, “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

It’s a verse that first-year Eagles head coach Earl Grant has repeated throughout the meat of conference play—a stretch that, coming into Monday night, had seen BC lose seven of its last eight games, including five straight.

“There’s such a thin line between winning and losing,” Grant said. “We may have lost two or three games where it was a one-possesion game with two minutes to go. I think not growing weary means you’re not too far away from success. That if you just keep swinging and chopping and staying the course, something good is coming. If you don’t give in.

“They didn’t give in.”

BC shot out to an 11-0 lead against a similarly reeling but even more beat up Florida State team Monday night in Conte Forum. A trio of 3-pointers and four steals in the first two minutes and 16 seconds did the trick. The Eagles kept their foot on the gas and, at one point, stretched their lead to 21 points in the second half of a 71-55 victory.

“We just kind of have been struggling lately, and we realized we gotta come out and come with energy,” Zackery said. “We had DeMarr [Langford Jr.] out, TJ [Bickerstaff] out. A lot of us are hurt. And so I feel like I had to come out and make a statement and start with some energy.”

Zackery’s statement was louder than his highlighter pink and yellow New Balance sneakers. Loud enough for every Division I team that passed on him to hear.

The first-year JUCO transfer piled up 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals with just one turnover versus the Seminoles. He was the Eagles’ spark plug.

Zackery assisted or scored BC’s first three 3-pointers, one of which he helped create with a steal. His first make from downtown gave the Eagles (10-16, 5-11 ACC) their first double-digit lead. BC was giving FSU (14-13, 7-10)—which forces a league-high 15.3 turnovers per game—a taste of its own medicine.

The Seminoles got senior guard RayQuan Evans back for the Monday night tilt but were still missing three of their top-four scorers in what has been an emotional year for Leonard Hamilton’s squad. For a program that relies on its depth and, hence, a balanced attack, injuries have derailed FSU in 2021-22.

Wyatt Wilkes got the Seminoles on the board first with a 3-pointer, but the underclassmen backcourt pairing of Matthew Cleveland and Cam’Ron Fletcher was the Seminoles’ life line. They combined for 16 of FSU’s 24 first-half points. The rest of the team shot 3-of-15 from the floor during the opening frame.

Meanwhile, the Eagles got help from pretty much everywhere. The absence of Langford (toe) and Bickerstaff (calf) called for a lineup change. Grant pivoted to a two-center look, with Brevin Galloway getting his third consecutive start. He cashed in, netting a pair of 3-pointers in the first half.

Zackery took matters into his own hands in the back half of the period, orchestrating a self-made 8-2 run that saw him drain a 3-pointer, make a steal and convert a layup in the span of 15 seconds.

BC, however, slowed down before intermission, in part because of 10 turnovers. The Eagles entered the break up, 32-24, but not until center Quinten Post and FSU freshman guard Jalen Warley were both given technical fouls for a heated exchange after the whistle.

It appeared as if Warley was upset Post knocked into 7-foot-1 Seminoles forward John Butler on a rebound attempt. Warley made that clear, and Post snapped back.

Although the technical put Post—at the time, he was up to three personals—in foul trouble, Karnik admitted that the blowup “got us going a little.”

That energy was palpable in the second half when the Eagles stitched together a 9-0 scoring surge near the beginning of the period.

Galloway connected on his third 3-pointer, and then Zackery sandwiched a Karnik layup with two of his own. The second was made possible by a mean crossover Zackery used to blow by Fletcher.

Like the first half, the Seminoles’ offense was limited to Cleveland and Fletcher. When a brief spurt from those two subsided, the Eagles embarked on another run. Post threw down a two-handed flush, Karnik kissed a left-handed hook off the glass and Makai Ashton-Langford sank a stepback jumper.

BC reserve guard Kanye Jones, who finished with eight points, dropped in a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to push the Eagles’ lead to 20 later on in the period.

FSU got back within 13 points with under four minutes to go, courtesy of a Butler 3-pointer and a Cleveland layup, but BC countered with a Karnik dunk and 3-pointers from Zackery and Jones.

The Eagles—who finished with a season-high 11 triples—didn’t grow weary. Instead, they stayed the course.

And they were rewarded with their first win since Jan. 30.

“That’s pretty much the message moving forward,” Karnik said.