The junior guard from Colorado Springs, Colo., was immaculate from the field -- 8-for-9 overall, including 3-for-3 from behind the arc and 6-for-6 from the free throw line -- for a game-high 25 points, had three assists and two rebounds. The imperfect part? Jackson also committed seven of the Eagles’ 14 turnovers and four of their 13 personal fouls.
The fouls became an issue seven minutes into the second half, when Jackson was credited with his first after he was assessed an offensive foul (one of three on the day) for pushing off to create space for a fadeaway jumper (the negated shot would’ve been good). The third foul sent Jackson to the bench and robbed the Eagles of their best playmaker.
Against an aggressive and athletic Yellow Jackets squad, that was problematic at times.
With and without Jackson, the Eagles allowed a troubling trend to continue Saturday: building leads and then watching the opponent gradually chip away at them as the Eagles’ offense falls silent.
On Wednesday, BC scored just three points in the last 7:03 of the first half, allowing Harvard to take control with a 14-3 run in an eventual 78-69 win. On Saturday, leading Georgia Tech 23-17 with 10:33 left in the opening frame, the Eagles turned the ball over twice, missed two shots and bricked a pair of free throws to let the Yellow Jackets take the lead before Corey Raji stopped the bleeding with a jumper.
Both of the turnovers during the run came against the Yellow Jackets’ press, which forced the Eagles into uncharacteristic mistakes throughout the game: ill-advised cross-court passes and long, contested entry passes.
The Eagles entered their second Atlantic Coast Conference game averaging an ACC-low 10.8 turnovers a contest, while the quick Yellow Jackets entered their first ACC game averaging a conference-high 9.9 steals per game. Georgia Tech converted BC's 14 turnovers into 19 points.
But the turnovers didn’t bother first-year Eagles coach Steve Donahue.
“I’ll never say a word about turnovers to my team,” he said. “Sometimes, daring to make plays, you’re gonna have mistakes but that’s the only way you get better, that’s the only way you run great offense in my opinion.
“If you don’t want to turn the ball over and you play that way, I don’t think you’re gonna develop as an offensive team. So 14 [turnovers] I can live with.”
He also wasn’t worried about the occasional lulls his offense has gone through in the past two games.
“College basketball is a game of who gets ahead and who comes back,” he said. “It’s just the way we’ve done it all year. The other way, we’ve been down 15, 16 points [and come back]. That’s just the way it is.”
Jackson has certainly seen that in his time at BC.
“It’s been that way my past three years here -- we find a way, somehow, to break away but then let teams back in it,” Jackson said. “So, we’ve got to find a way to progress, and once we break away, just bury teams and get the game over with.”
Donahue said the Eagles’ defense was the difference in the second half, challenging shots and rebounding the ball well (winning the rebounding battle 33-27 overall). The Yellow Jackets shot 41.2 percent in the second half, but that was down from 57.7 percent in the first half. Perhaps the biggest difference came from behind the arc: The Jackets hit 4-for-10 in the first and just 1-for-9 in the second.
BC, meanwhile, was 5-for-11 in the first and 4-for-8 in the second to finish at 47.4 percent for the game.
“I thought, for the most part, they were shooting hard shots and we were rebounding the ball,” Donahue said. “And when we do that, we’re a very good basketball team.
“I thought Reggie did a terrific job as well, just being a leader.”
Donahue said he talked to Jackson for a half hour in his office after the loss to Harvard because he believes the junior, who he called a “great college basketball player,” can be an even better leader.
“The other thing that’s pretty funny, you mention Reggie’s seven turnovers -- he missed one shot all game. He played his tail off,” Donahue said with a frustrated laugh. “And he hasn’t really turned it over too much.”
Jackson and the Eagles, who also received an inspired performance from Raji (22 points on 9-for-13 shooting, including 2-for-3 from 3, and 9 rebounds) and solid minutes from freshman guard Gabe Moton (5 points and 3 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench, some in place of the foul-plagued Jackson), will take the trade-off: A career high in turnovers for Jackson, a win for BC (12-4, 2-0 ACC).
“Definitely, I feel [the turnovers were] very uncharacteristic of me,” Jackson said. “But the game’s over with, I have to let it be and I have to learn from my mistakes, but I’m satisfied with the win so I’m not gonna complain too much about it.”