The Boston University men’s basketball team continued to prove itself as a legitimate mid-major contender with a tough 66-65 win Saturday against St. Peter’s University.
Coming home from California after winning two out of three games at the 2K Sports Classic Sub-Regional, the Terriers (5-2) looked to keep the momentum going against SPU (2-4). The Peacocks of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference had won their last two non-conference games before facing BU.
St. Peter’s came out swinging in the first half, jumping out to an early 15-7 lead after the first eight minutes of play. During this quick run, BU went just 4-for-12 from the field with a couple of costly turnovers that led to St. Peter baskets.
At the end of the first, SPU led 27-21 following a lackluster offensive display from the Terriers. Despite getting open looks, BU shot a measly 32.1 percent from the field. The backcourt consisting of senior guard D.J. Irving and sophomore guards Maurice Watson Jr. and John Papale was the primary culprit for the offensive struggles, as the trio combined to go 1-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc in the half. The bench was no help to the Terriers either, getting outscored 11-2 during the first 20 minutes of play.
“I thought St. Peter’s set the tone early in the game,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “They played with great energy and they were ready to go. They came out more aggressive than we did and I thought that set the tone for most of the first half.”
Although it struggled in the first half, BU began to chip away at the Peacock lead right from the start of the second. Instead of playing from the perimeter, the Terrier guards began to feed the ball inside to senior forward Dom Morris and sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonne. Dieudonne used his size and athleticism to his advantage, and he led the Terriers with 21 points and nine rebounds on the night.
“He’s been terrific with great energy and great focus throughout the season,” Jones said of Dieudonne. “He chased balls and he did a great job.”
Just more than six minutes into the second half, BU tied the game up at 36. After the Terriers knotted up the score, neither team could break away on the scoreboard and the teams battled back-and-forth for most of the frame. With 2:50 remaining in the game, the Terriers took their largest lead of the game, a six-point advantage. Keeping with the trend of the game, however, the Terriers could not hold their slim lead and the Peacocks tied it up at 65 apiece with 1:27 remaining.
After missed shots from both teams, Dieudonne grabbed a defensive rebound and Jones called a timeout with 27 seconds remaining.
“We ran [Watson] off a ball screen and we wanted him to read how the defense was going to play,” Jones said. “We were looking for [Papale] in the corner to get to the rim but they didn’t bite on it.”
Following the timeout, the Terriers got the ball to Dieudonne, who drove to basket and drew the shooting foul. He made one out of the two shots from the charity stripe to give BU a one-point lead with 1.7 seconds remaining.
“They [SPU] did a good job of controlling [Watson] off the dribble,” Jones said. “It was just a really good read on [Watson] and [Dieudonne’s] part. They created a nice play for us based on what we wanted to do and they did a great job.”
The Peacocks threw the ensuing inbounds pass down court and called a quick timeout with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock.
Coming out of the timeout, Jones checked in senior forward Travis Robinson, junior forward Malik Thomas and 7-foot-tall freshman center Dylan Haines.
“[Haines] is our longest player on the ball and [Thomas] is our best jumper,” Jones said. “We put [Thomas] at the rim because, judging by their set up, that’s what they were looking to do. There wasn’t enough time to do much, so we knew they had to send somebody to the rim. [Thomas] guarded their best player, [junior Marvin Dominique], at the rim and did a good job deflecting the ball.”
The extra height proved to be the difference for the Terriers, as they deflected the inbound pass as time expired to preserve the 66-65 victory.
The second half marked a completely different Terrier team, as they posted 45 points and shot over 50 percent from the field. Instead of forcing the issue, the Terriers took what was given to them, putting up 13 points off of just five SPU second-half turnovers.
“The tide changed in the second half,” Jones said. “We came out with really good intensity, and I think to win a game where we didn’t shoot very well says a lot about how far we’ve come.”