Trailing by as many as 28 points late in the first half against Stony Brook University, the Boston University men’s basketball team could have just as easily packed it in for the remainder of the game and not fought back.
When the first session ended and the Seawolves (22–6, 13–2 America East) carried a 19-point cushion, SBU coach Steve Pikiell gave his squad a fair warning in the locker room: BU (17–12, 11–5 America East) was not going to roll over in its final America East game.
“We were really nervous about the game,” Pikiell said. “[Ahead] 19 points at halftime, I said to these guys, ‘They’re the leading scoring team in the league. Don’t worry about them. They’re going to score enough points.’”
In a first half where the Terriers shot 23.3 percent (7-of-30) from the floor and endured multiple scoring droughts, BU showed the fight it has displayed all season long in the second half, ever since it received word that it was banned from the America East Tournament before the 2012-13 campaign had even begun.
The Terriers embarked on a 23-5 run well into the second half, cutting the deficit to 10 on a freshman guard Maurice Watson, Jr. three ball to make it 53-43. But ultimately, their run fell short and they wound up on the losing end of the 71-55 decision at Agganis Arena Thursday night.
Watson was asked afterward what the source of the team’s second-half play that seemed to shift the momentum and rally the Terriers.
“We’re a group of tough guys,” Watson said. “We were so disappointed in the fact that we came out the way we came out. In the locker room, while the coaches were outside talking, we were all like ‘Listen, this is our last game in the America East. We’re not going to go out like this. We’re a much better team than this. We’re not going to let this team come in and continue to embarrass us on our home court.’
“We wanted to go out with a bang, show our fight, show how relentless we are and try to win this together. We just came out a little short.”
Compared to the first half, BU, led primarily by junior guard D.J. Irving and Watson, began attacking SBU in the paint, finishing at the rim and knocking down its outside shots.
Freshman guard John Papale connected on a 3-pointer on the Terriers’ first offensive possession coming out of the break. Watson, Irving, Papale and junior forward Dom Morris each converted a field goal during the first five minutes of the second half.
Junior forward Travis Robinson pulled the Terriers within striking distance with a 5-0 run of his own that took only 52 seconds. He converted an up-and-under layup in traffic, followed soon by a straightaway 3-pointer from the top of the key.
BU’s offensive approach changed in the final frame. The Terriers were no longer looking to settle for 15-foot jumpers or 3-pointers like they did in the first half. They began going up strong and attacking the rim.
“I do feel like we settled [in the first half],” Watson said. “I do feel like when we were driving, we started to hang our heads and started expecting the referees to call anything instead of going hard to the rim. When we noticed when we weren’t getting the calls that we wanted, we started settling.
“We definitely can’t do that. Toward the end of the half, we started getting to the basket, getting to the line. We started pushing the tempo and getting more baskets.”
BU didn’t get any closer than 10 points from tying the game in that second half. It suffered a 16-point defeat that at one point seemed like it was going to be much worse.
“It was surprising that we came out with little energy like we did,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “In the second half, we were our normal team. We got back to taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Let’s go play. Let’s not worry about the score. Let’s just go play our game.’
“We did a good job of that. We cut the lead to 10. We couldn’t keep the run going.”