The Boston University men’s basketball team defeated the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Saturday night, 68-59, to claim its sixth straight victory.
The game started off with a historic mark for junior guard D.J. Irving. Following a UMBC (6-21, 4-10 America East) turnover, Irving hit a 3-pointer 1:19 into the game to give BU (17-11, 11-4 America East) a 3-0 lead. More importantly, the 3-point shot put Irving past the 1,000-point milestone.
“It’s a great achievement for D.J., but I don’t know how aware of it he was at the time,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “He did not play like he was aware of it, which doesn’t surprise me about him at all. He is such a team player.”
In terms of celebration, the game did not pause to honor the milestone, and the Terriers kept building momentum off the big 3-pointer.
“We celebrated after the game,” Jones said. “[Irving] always puts the team above all the individual stuff.”
UMBC has been plagued by recent struggles, losing its last six games, but Jones made sure BU did not take the Retrievers lightly.
“You have to look at their scores,” Jones said. “Besides [against the University of] Vermont, they have played really well at home. They’ve given everyone a good game at their place.”
The Terriers, with strong play from junior forward Dom Morris in the paint, built on their early lead, and took a commanding 21-9 lead over UMBC after a layup from sophomore forward James Kennedy 12:16 into the half.
Though UMBC refused to roll over and die, the Retrievers were unable to catch up after BU’s quick start.
At the end of the half, the Terriers had an 11-point lead over the Retrievers. Morris ended the half with eight points while BU recorded 16 points in the paint. UMBC guard Brian Neller led the home team with six points, courtesy of two 3-point baskets.
The second half started with more of the same for the Retrievers, and they found themselves down by 12 three minutes into the second half. After making a few adjustments, UMBC finally turned the match into a one-possession game when Neller nailed a free throw at the 10:50 mark of the final frame.
Responding to UMBC’s attempted comeback, the Terriers stepped their game up. Thanks to baskets from freshman guard Maurice Watson Jr. and sophomore forward Malik Thomas, BU was able to separate itself from the struggling Retrievers once again.
In the last minutes of the game, Watson took over. With 10 points and two steals in the last 6:17 of play, Watson sealed the Terriers’ sixth straight victory.
Watson led BU with 19 points and six assists while Irving, aside from having a milestone night, registered 17 points. After leading the Terriers at halftime with eight points, Morris disappeared in the second half and did not make another basket.
Freshman guard John Papale, after putting together a few strong performances in recent games, was nowhere to be found Saturday night. He went 0-for-7 from the field and missed all five shots he took from beyond the arc.
“We don’t have to rely on one guy to score,” Jones said. “At any given time there is going to be one or two of those guys that may not score a lot of points, whether it’s in terms of a full game or a half, and we don’t worry about that. We just want to make sure we are taking good shots and playing together.”
Forward Chase Plummer led UMBC with 18 points while pulling down eight rebounds. Neller added 13 points for the Retrievers. UMBC struggled shooting the ball all night, finishing at 25 percent in the first half and 37.3 percent for the game from the field.
BU, with little more than personal pride on the line, is playing terrific basketball lately and has dominated America East in its farewell tour of the conference.
The Terriers’ toughest challenge of the season is Thursday night at Agganis Arena, when they will take on America East-leading Stony Brook University in the season finale.
“We want to go out on top,” Jones said. “We want to leave the right way.”