After suffering an ankle injury during the Boston University men’s basketball team’s victory against Lafayette College and sitting out during the Terriers’ win against Colgate University last Wednesday night, senior guard and tri-captain D.J. Irving made his return to the hardwood versus Loyola University-Maryland Tuesday.
“It feels a lot better,” Irving said following BU’s 72-58 victory over the Greyhounds It’s close to 100 percent, still not there yet, but I’m working towards that.”
Rather than the usual starting lineup of Irving, sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., sophomore guard John Papale, sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonne and senior forward Dom Morris, BU coach Joe Jones decided to bench his two starting guards in favor of senior guard Travis Robinson and sophomore guard Malik Thomas.
This left the Terriers (13-6, 6-0 Patriot League) with no true point guard to run the floor for BU, which became clear as the Terriers fell behind 7-0 early on in the first half against the Greyhounds (8-9, 3-3 Patriot League).
In the first half, Irving only saw the court for seven minutes, missing his only shot of the frame, while he dished out two assists.
“We were sitting next to each other on the bench the majority of the time,” Watson said. “We were out and we were just focusing on the way Loyola was playing and the things we would need to do to help our team.”
Despite the diminished play in the first half for the senior guard, it seemed that his time on the bench observing Loyola’s defense paid off in the second half.
After his missed shot in the first half of the contest, Irving went 6-for-7 from the field and went 2-for-2 from beyond the 3-point arc, scoring a total of 14 second-half points, considerably more than his 2013-14 game average of 11.8 points.
“I just wanted to come in and spark the team,” Irving said. “We had a little lapse at that time, I just wanted to spark the team and get some energy going.”
Irving’s two 3-pointers came at a crucial point with six minutes remaining in the game and the Terriers up by just eight over Loyola, especially since the Terriers have had trouble closing out games against strong opponents this year.
In recent games against Saint Joseph’s University, George Washington University and more recently against Patriot League opponent Lehigh University, the Terriers surrendered sizeable second-half leads, and fell in two of those contests, while winning the matchup against Lehigh (8-11, 1-5 Patriot League).
Had the Terriers given up the lead, it would have been the second year in a row that the team surrendered a lead to Loyola. During the Terriers’ postseason appearance in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament against Loyola, BU gave up its biggest lead of the season to the Greyhounds and fell in the opening round of the tournament.
With a 53-41 lead midway through the second half, the Terriers only scored two points in the ensuing seven minutes and ended up losing the game 70-63.
Despite the Greyhounds’ best attempts to come back this time, Irving’s 3-point attempts, combined with some solid defense helped the Terriers hold on to their lead and survive over their Patriot League foe.
“We knew we had to just stay focused,” Irving said. “That happens to us sometimes, we lose focus for a little bit cause we’re up; as a captain I just try to keep the guys focused on the task at hand and try to motivate them to work harder.”