Boston University men’s basketball freshman guard Maurice Watson Jr. has a sixth sense when it comes to knowing where his roommate and fellow freshman guard John Papale is on the court.
Watson Jr. handed out 10 assists in BU’s (16–11, 10–4 America East) 79–69 win over the University at Albany in the final America East game at Case Gymnasium Wednesday. Five of those assists were to the 6-foot-3 Papale, who finished with a team-high 18 points.
Papale’s deadeye shooting from behind the 3-point line — he knocked down four treys against the Great Danes (19–9, 8–6 America East) — has commanded the respect of opposing defenses and provided the undersized but dynamic backcourt duo of Watson and junior guard D.J. Irving the ability to work its creativity in the lane.
“Me and John are roommates. I consider him one of my best friends,” Watson Jr. said. “So when I’m driving, I always have a sixth sense of where he’s going to be. He’s a shooter.
“You have to find the shooter to get the team hot. It opens up the floor so much that he makes some threes. It opens up some driving lanes for me and D.J., just to be able to find him. I know that he’s going to knock the shot down. I just call it a sixth sense in the back of my head that when I drive he’s going to find an open spot.”
Lost in all the shuffle of Irving’s 18 points, which leaves him three shy of reaching the 1,000-point plateau, were impressive performances from other Terriers. Junior forward Dom Morris put up 16 points, nine rebounds and a two-handed slam over Albany forward Sam Rowley. Freshman forward Nathan Dieudonne had a baseline dunk of his own. But the most notable was Papale’s 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
On some nights, Papale is the fourth option on the offensive end, behind the talented trio of Morris, Watson Jr. and Irving, who accounted for 45 of the Terriers’ 79 points.
Albany coach Will Brown said afterward that his game plan for defending Papale was to keep him guarded.
“If you don’t get Irving or Watson Jr. in foul trouble, and those guys are both allowed to play 35 minutes, Papale, instead of being a good player, becomes awesome,” Brown said. “You’re either going to give up lay-ups to those two guys or they’re going to find him and he’s going to get jumper after jumper.”
And that’s exactly what Papale accomplished in his 36 minutes on the floor.
He opened up his scoring with a 3-pointer at the 3:50 mark of the first half, and followed that up with another triple on the Terriers’ next possession — one that evened the score at 9–9.
Papale contributed in more ways than one for the Terriers’ offense, finishing with three assists. One of those came on an Irving 3-point field goal that pushed BU’s lead to 21–16 with less than nine minutes remaining in the opening frame.
After knocking down back-to-back jumpers on BU’s first two possessions coming out of the locker room at halftime, Papale added his second assist, and perhaps the one that changed the momentum in the Terriers’ favor for good. He found Morris wide open on the pick-and-roll and fed it to the burly forward, who had a thunderous finish over Rowley that brought the crowd to its feet at The Roof and stretched BU’s cushion to seven points.
BU coach Joe Jones was asked to compare Papale with former Terrier Matt Griffin, whose trademark ability was to sink 3-pointers, and just so happened to wear jersey No. 2, the same that Papale wears.
“John [Papale] is an underrated, tough kid,” Jones said. “He’s more than just a shooter. And that’s what Matt [Griffin] was. Matt was a tough, gritty kid who played hard. Both guys shoot it pretty well. John has more size so he can do a little bit more. There are some similarities there.”