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Syracuse men’s basketball forward Chris Bell breaks out of slump against Boston College

Chris Bell was the bellweather against Boston College and Syracuse needed every bit of his performance.

Boston College v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team needed all it could get from sophomore forward Chris Bell against Boston College. Bell broke out of a shooting slump by scoring 20 points on 8-14 shooting and 4-9 from outside. He led all scorers.

Syracuse fans inside the JMA Wireless Dome wouldn’t have to stand and clap long as Bell sat them down by knocking down the first shot attempt of the game for the Orange. As it so often goes, good things follow when Bell makes his first shot of the game.

Or as Bell puts it: “Just for me to see one go in, it’s probably bad for the other team.”

Although it’s been hard of late to make much difficult for the other team, Bell acknowledged his shooting struggles with honesty and introspection from the Syracuse locker room late Wednesday night. Bell, contemplative, had been 2-12 from distance over the previous five games.

“I feel earlier in the year I was pressing the issue and I kind of was getting down on myself and all those other things that can happen to players,” Bell stated openly. “I was really just trying to stay confident and get back to being myself. Failing a lot helps you with that.

“I think it helps you a lot and playing helps you grow as a person. So that’s what I’ve been dealing with the last few games.”

Whatever Bell had been dealing with the last few games was flushed on Wednesday night. After making his first three, he got out in transition for dunks — including a windmill dunk that forced a timeout. Bell made his second three of the half with just over five minutes to play and a third dunk gave him 12 first half points. Most importantly though, Bell was shooting the ball.

“Chris knows he can shoot. It doesn’t waver in his mind whether or not he can hit the open shot — or any shot in that case. Chris, he’s confident. Any time the ball hits his hands he knows if he has enough room he can hit the shot,” Judah Mintz said.

He was also involved from the bench, something Autry says he looks for out of his players.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps no play was more crucial for Syracuse than the one Bell made when the Orange relinquished the lead for the first time on a Prince Aligbe score down low. It looked as if Boston College might find a way to steal a game on the road.

On a night when Syracuse’s starting backcourt was held in check and when the Orange were already down a player, Bell responded in a big way. Autry inserted him into the game and a crucial time and the head coach was rewarded with the payoff as Bell fired a three with 6:35 to play that gave Syracuse the lead back 52-50. The Orange wouldn’t trail the rest of the way thanks to Bell’s fourth triple of the game.

“I thought he popped right up and he was ready to go. I was proud of him. Again, he’s struggled a little bit, a couple games,” Autry said. “But he stayed with his confidence and kept shooting. He hit a big three for us. We needed that three.”

Quadir Copeland — who had made his first career start at Syracuse — was happy to see the ball go through the net, perhaps also feeling a bit of relief.

“I just put my hands in the air and was just like, ‘Thank you, Chris!’ ... I was already low-key dead trying to fight for the offensive rebounds. So when he made that shot it definitely was a good feeling.”

Copeland says fellow sophomores Justin Taylor and Bell are the two best shooters he’s ever seen. He knows how vital it is for Bell to make outside shots and to get him in rhythm from range.

“He’s an important piece to the team. I want the world and everyone to know that. Chris, that’s my brother. He’s a part of that freshman class we came in all together. Most of the reason we all came back was to play together,” Copeland said.

Bell has come back as a second year starter and waxed and waned over the course of the season. Early in the year he offered a secondary scorer to Judah Mintz while teammates were still adjusting to new roles before cooling off in December. But if the Boston College game was any indication, all it takes is for Bell to see one shot to go through which could spell trouble for the other team.

“That’s how he plays,” Mintz said. “Some days it’s just not his day. But today was not one of them.”