Boston University men’s basketball coach Joe Jones had an up-close and personal view of the meeting between BU (17-11, 11-4 America East) and Stony Brook University that took place at Agganis Arena March 12, 2011.
He was sitting behind the Terrier bench during the America East championship game, a matchup the Terriers won in nail-biting fashion, 56-54, to clinch the program’s first conference title since 2002 and seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Jones remembers the March afternoon quite fondly, especially the performance by Terrier legend John Holland, who piled up 27 points — including 14 in a row during a decisive stretch late in the second half — and sent the Agganis crowd into euphoria after the buzzer sounded.
“Both teams played hard that day,” Jones said. “John Holland was outstanding. What a great atmosphere. Those were things that I remembered from that afternoon.”
Nearly two years later, Jones leads his squad — inherited from former BU coach Patrick Chambers, who was at the helm when BU defeated Stony Brook in the championship tilt — into a contest with the Seawolves (21-6, 12-2 America East) at Agganis Arena Thursday night.
BU currently sits in second place behind Stony Brook in the conference standings, as the Seawolves clinched a share of the America East regular-season crown with a 69-53 win over the University of Maine Saturday.
Thursday’s contest pits the two hottest clubs in the conference, with the Terriers riding a season-high six-game winning streak while the Seawolves have not lost in four games.
Both teams are firing on all cylinders as BU prepares for its final America East game. In this highly touted game against Stony Brook, Jones said his team is approaching it like any other game and sticking to the formula that has been working during the winning streak.
“We don’t want to do anything different,” Jones said. “In big games, you can focus on the magnitude of the game. We want to continue to do what we’ve been doing. We’ve been ascending.
“We want to continue defending and rebounding at a high level. We want to make a lot of plays — effort plays. The team that usually wins is the one that makes those plays.”
Leading the Terriers as of late is the dynamic backcourt duo of junior guard D.J. Irving and freshman guard Maurice Watson Jr. Irving recorded 17 points and joined the 1,000-point plateau as a member of the Terriers and Watson dropped 19 of his own, to go along with six assists, in BU’s 68-59 victory over the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Saturday.
Meanwhile, forward Tommy Brenton paces the Seawolves in the frontcourt. He tallied 13 points and snared 20 rebounds in Stony Brook’s win that guaranteed it at least a share of the regular-season championship.
Brenton, forward Jameel Warney (12.1 ppg), guard Anthony Jackson (11.1 ppg) and guard Dave Coley (11.0 ppg) round out the rest of the talented Stony Brook squad.
“They have a lot of talent,” Jones said. “They’re a very talented group. They work hard. They expect to win every time they step on the floor. They defend at a high level. The kid Brenton is a unique talent because he’s a skilled kid at the three and at the four. He’s a really tough kid. He’s their best team defender.”
Although Brenton is well known around the league for his defensive prowess, an underrated aspect of his game is his ability to make an impact on the offensive end as well, especially with his passing.
Brenton ranks third in the America East with an average of 4.7 assists per game. BU’s Watson ranks first in the category with an average of 5.4.
“The thing with him is that we have to match his physicality and intensity,” Jones said of Brenton. “He gets guys involved. He’s an intangible guy. You can’t allow him to make multiple-effort plays.
“If he gets an offensive rebound, if he gets to a loose ball, you can’t let that happen down the floor multiple times. You need to make those effort plays against him.”
Jones knows that his players are well aware of their goal of closing out the regular season — and the farewell tour of the America East — on a high note.
“They want go out on top,” Jones said. “We’ve put together a nice run. We have to focus on the things that we need to do to win the game. We can’t focus on it being a big game. We’re going to be in great shape. I can’t speak for them. I hope that they continue to do things that we’ve been doing.”