It's a cliché for a reason, the truism that nothing comes easily on the road in the ACC. And so it was again during North Carolina's 90-82 victory at Boston College on Saturday.
The Tar Heels (18-3, 6-1) won their sixth consecutive game, and remained in a tie atop the ACC standings in the process, but not after passing a stern test at Boston College's Conte Forum. The Eagles didn't look like the team many expected to be the worst in the ACC.
Especially not after UNC stretched its lead to 10 points with about six minutes to play in the first half. The Tar Heels looked well on their way at that point but from there Boston College freshman guard Ky Bowman scored 13 of his 21 first-half points during the final 5 ½ minutes before halftime.
Bowman, who at one point accounted for 10 consecutive Eagles points, made a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the half to cut UNC's lead to 34-33 entering halftime. UNC in the second half didn't lead by more than six points until less than five minutes remained.
It was still a six-point game approaching the final minute when Joel Berry, the Tar Heels’ junior point guard, made a 3-pointer from the right side to give UNC an 81-72 lead with 64 seconds to play. The Eagles (9-11, 2-5), who kept it close throughout the second half, never cut their deficit to fewer than eight points in the final minute.
Bowman often played like he had something to prove. And as a North Carolina native who left the state without an offer to play basketball at UNC, indeed he might have had something to prove. Bowman, an all-state basketball player at Havelock High, committed to play football at UNC in 2014.
He rescinded his commitment – and received a football scholarship offer from Alabama not long after – and eventually decided to pursue basketball in college. Bowman has made that look like a smart decision throughout his freshman season, and he did again for long stretches on Saturday.
Bowman, with his hair dyed red – and with several in the Boston College student section wearing red wigs in his honor – finished with a game-high 33 points, which tied his high in college. Jerome Robinson, the Eagles' sophomore guard and leading scorer, finished with 18.
Robinson in high school was the Cap 8 Player of the Year at Broughton High. Like Bowman, though, Robinson didn’t receive any interest from North Carolina ACC schools. Robinson’s only scholarship offer came from Boston College, where he has made the most of his opportunity.
Both Bowman and Robinson kept the Eagles in it, but UNC exploited its clear edge in the front court. UNC’s three front court starters -- Kennedy Meeks (20 points), Isaiah Hicks (14) and Justin Jackson (22) -- combined for 56 points.
For the Tar Heels, it was perhaps a closer-than-expected victory, but an ACC road victory nonetheless. Those are never easy to come by but they’ve been especially rare this season throughout the conference, where entering Saturday road teams had won a little less than 30 percent of the time in conference play.