Even after the Boston University men’s basketball team fell to Stony Brook University 71-55 at Agganis Arena Thursday night, BU coach Joe Jones was certain that his squad did enough up to that point to earn a spot in a postseason tournament.
In July, the Terriers (17-12, 11-5 America East) were banned from participating in the America East Tournament due to their decision to switch to the Patriot League for the 2013-14 campaign.
Having recorded 17 wins — with 11 coming in conference play — and stringing together a six-game winning streak before their loss to the Seawolves (23-6, 14-2 America East), the Terriers have to wait until Selection Sunday on March 17 to hear if they have received a postseason bid, whether it is to the College Basketball Invitational or the College Insider Tournament.
“We’ll play,” Jones said of BU’s postseason chances. “We’re going to make a postseason tournament. There’s no doubt.”
Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell also said he sees a place for BU in a postseason tournament.
“They’re good,” Pikiell said. “They play good basketball. They’re talented. They’re well coached. … They definitely deserve a chance to keep playing. I hope they get that opportunity. “Great university, a lot of pride, a lot of tradition through the years and good players. I hope they have a chance to keep on playing. It’d be great for them.”
Still, bitter feelings remain with the Terriers, as they will not have the opportunity to face off against other America East schools in the conference tournament for a chance to head to the Big Dance.
“I would have loved to,” Jones said about taking his tream to another America East tournament. “To be honest with you, these guys have not hung their heads at all once they found out about the decision in the summer. They played the season like we were going to play in the tournament.
“A lot of teams would have gotten down and not fought back. This team fought back like crazy.”
Neutralizing BU’s guard play
During BU’s six-game winning streak, freshman guard Maurice Watson, Jr. and junior guard D.J. Irving made the Terrier offense run with their scoring, passing and rebounding.
But Thursday, Stony Brook limited the dynamic backcourt duo of Watson and Irving to 23 points on a combined 10-of-27 shooting.
Pikiell credited the Seawolves’ interior defense and forward Tommy Brenton for shutting down BU’s dribble penetration.
“We’ve got good quickness on the perimeter,” Pikiell said. “Tommy does a great job of being where he’s supposed to be. We have shot blockers underneath the basket. If they do get in there, we want to make it difficult for them to finish. We did a great job in the first half, guarding them on the perimeter, in the post, all over the place.”
Jones praised SBU’s defense afterward for preventing his team from attacking the paint.. “They’re one of the better defensive teams in the country from a field goal percentage standpoint,” Jones said. “They do a great job of keeping you out of the lane. I knew going into the game it wasn’t going to be the way it is against [the University at] Albany or [the University of] Vermont.
“They’re another level. We knew it was going to be hard for us to get easy opportunities.”
Even against all the odds that have been stacked against his team this year, Jones said he could not be more pleased with the way the Terriers carried themselves all season long.
With the ban from the America East Tournament, the departure of senior forward Jake O’Brien to Temple University and five straight losses to begin the season, — along with two defeats to kick off conference play, — BU found itself in a position in its final regular season game to compete for a share of the America East title.
“For us, to sit here and dwell on the fact that we didn’t win the game [Thursday] or play well, we had a great run,” Jones said. “Now we have to regroup and get ready for the postseason. That’s it. These guys have been terrific all year.”
“What we did was pretty impressive in terms of the run that we made,” he added. “Winning nine out of 10 games and being a factor this late in the year. That’s impressive.”