The Boston University men’s basketball team ended its season with a 70-63 loss to Loyola University-Maryland in the opening round of the Collegeinsider.com Tournament, Tuesday night in Baltimore.
“We were up 11 in the second half — it’s just a tough way to lose,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “I told the guys we had a very good year. We really battled and persevered all season. We played well in some big stretches tonight, but we just weren’t able to pull it out. It’s always tough to lose your last one.”
The Terriers (17-12, 11-5 America East) came out with a high energy level and, taking advantage of the noticeably sluggish early effort from Loyola (21-11), controlled both sides of the ball with strong ball movement, crisp passing and stiff defense. BU got out to a quick 8-1 lead only 3:15 into the game and spent most of the first half building on that lead.
It seemed like it would be a long night for Loyola when BU found itself up 21-8 with 11:25 to play in the first half, but the Greyhounds refused to die easily on their homecourt.
Guard Robert Olson silenced his early shooting troubles by draining three shots from beyond the arc to give Loyola a spark in the last seven minutes of the opening frame. Coupled with a small scoring drought for BU, Loyola crawled back into the game and, despite never leading in the first half, was within reach going into the locker room, 33-27.
Junior forward Dom Morris led the Terriers with 11 first-half points, while BU as a team had 23 points in the paint with easy layups. Loyola committed 12 turnovers in the first half and BU took advantage with 12 points off those turnovers.
Similar to the beginning of the opening frame, the Greyhounds staggered out of the gate in the second half. BU quickly rebuilt its double-digit lead, 45-30, only three minutes into the half.
Midway through the frame, Loyola began fighting back with an Olson 3-pointer and guard Dylon Cormier’s first points of the game. Each time Loyola came close, BU prevented a lead change, but this changed with six minutes left in the game.
“We got out of the gate really well in the second half and then we just struggled to score,” Jones said. “We had a hard time putting together our press and they did a good job of figuring out how to attack us.”
Pouring the pressure on defensively, Cormier and forward Anthony Winbush each nailed 3-pointers and gave Loyola its first lead of the night, 58-55, with 5:09 to go in the game.
“[The Greyhounds] started making some shots,” Jones said. “They average four threes a game and they got 10 tonight. They just made some big shots, but we need to know how to handle those situations better.”
Refusing to give up the lead, Loyola took command of the game when it mattered most. The Greyhounds ramped up the intensity and finished off the Terriers 70-63.
Cormier, the Greyhounds’ leading scorer for the season, struggled for most of the game, but returned to form when his team needed him and was ultimately the difference, as he finished the game with 16 points.
“He is a very good player,” Jones said of Cormier. “My hat goes off to him because he didn’t score in the first half and he came out in the second half and scored 16. He basically put the team on his back.”
The Terriers made the game look easy for a majority of the contest, but in the end they could not finish.
As a young team, Jones expressed how important of an experience this was and how it will benefit the team in the long run.
“We needed to go through this,” Jones said. “We needed to know what this felt like. Now we need to learn. Overall it’s going to really benefit us. To have a chance to experience something like this, it’ll be great for us.”
With their 2012-13 campaign over, the Terriers will focus on their future in the Patriot League. Loyola, like BU, will be leaving its current conference to play for the Patriot League in 2013-14, and tonight was the first matchup of the future conference rivals.
“They wanted to play us, we wanted to play them,” Jones said. “We learned a lot about ourselves tonight, as well as a lot about them, and I have to think we will be competing for the top of the league in the future.
“There are some very good teams in the league too, but Loyola and BU will hopefully be two of the better teams.”