Coming off its first Patriot League loss, the Boston University men’s basketball team responded Saturday with a 64-61 victory against last year’s Patriot League champion Bucknell University.
The Bison (9-10, 4-4 Patriot League) came into the game with a 70-60 win against Loyola University-Maryland in their last contest. Before that victory, they had lost two games in a row against the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy.
The Terriers (14-7, 7-1 Patriot League) came out strong following a 30-point loss against conference leader American University. At the eight-minute mark of the first half, BU held a 19-6 lead with a balanced scoring assault. The Terriers continued to build on their success and took a 32-16 advantage into halftime, following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from senior guard D.J. Irving.
“I thought we played really well for about the first 34 minutes,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “We played great defense. We didn’t shoot it particularly well, but we got good shots. I was really pleased with our focus and intensity, especially playing in such a tough venue.”
The Terriers held the Bison to just 6-for-24 from the field in the first half. BU shot 41.4 percent from the floor, while shooting a scorching 41 percent from behind the 3-point arc. Irving and fellow senior guard Travis Robinson paced the attack on offense, shooting a combined 4-of-7 from 3-point range in the half. Sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., also had an excellent first half, scoring four points, while dishing out four assists to facilitate the offense.
“We’re going to go as far as our seniors take us,” Jones said. “They showed great leadership and made great decisions on both ends of the floor. I met with the three seniors and discussed what we want to try to pursue during our stretch run. They do a great job of trying to do the things we’re asking them to do.”
Starting six minutes into the second half, BU went on an 11-0 run, extending its lead to 46-28. At the eight-minute media timeout, the Terriers had reached their largest lead of the night, a margin of 20 points.
“We were up 20 with seven minutes to go and we took our foot off the gas,” Jones said. “Bucknell did a great job of getting themselves back in the game.”
As the clock ticked off the final minutes, the Terriers got complacent and saw their lead begin to slip away. With 3:01 left to go in the game, the Bison had clawed their way back to within 10 points. Bucknell went on a 13-1 run that concluded with 32 seconds to go in the game after two free-throw makes from sophomore guard John Papale brought the Terrier lead back up to 59-53.
The Terrier defense continued to struggle, though, and following a 3-pointer from Bison guard Chris Hass, the lead was cut to one with 19 seconds on the clock.
The Bison proceeded to foul Papale, who went to the line and knocked down both free throws as part of his 5-for-6 night from the charity stripe. On the ensuing Bison possession, Watson stole the ball and drove all the way to the basket for the layup, giving BU a 63-58 advantage with seven seconds left. Hass proceeded to hit another 3-pointer with one second remaining, but that would be all the Bison could muster in a wild comeback, as the Terriers took the game 64-61.
BU was outscored 45-32 by Bucknell in the second half, making the Terriers’ second half deficit in the last two games 99-61. During this span, they have shot 20 percent from beyond the arc and just 28 percent from the field.
The Terriers will look to win their second-straight game and fix the second-half issues when they take on Army Wednesday night at Agganis Arena.