After nearly blowing a 20-point lead just five days ago against Bucknell University, the Boston University men’s basketball team returned to Agganis Arena to take on the third-place U.S. Military Academy in another Patriot League contest.
Despite a great opening from the Terriers, BU (15-7, 8-1 Patriot League) found itself in another tight late-game situation after blowing a 22-point second half lead. The Terriers had to fend off the hot-handed Black Knights (10-10, 6-3 Patriot League), but eventually pulled out an 86-81 victory in overtime.
“I think the team that came out on top tonight, whether it was Army or BU, was going to feel they accomplished something tonight,” said Army coach Zach Spiker. “Credit to BU, they hit some big shots.”
Right from the start, the Terriers pounced on the Black Knights, as sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., hit the first shot of the game to start a 9-2 BU run.
Army came back after the first media timeout and looked to get a run of its own when freshman Tanner Omlid hit a layup while the defense switched to full-court press. Despite the changes, the Terriers continued to stick to their game plan.
With just under four minutes remaining in the half, Army’s center Kevin Ferguson was able to cut BU’s lead down to 12 points, but unfortunately for the Black Knights, that would be all of the scoring they would do for the rest of the half.
BU with some strong offensive play went into the break with a commanding 37-18 lead. Freshman guard Cedric Hankerson led the way for the Terriers, scoring eight points in the opening frame.
“We were in a bit of a foreign mode in the first half,” Spiker said of the Black Knights. “I don’t think we played well in the first half.”
The Terriers, looking to right the second half issues that has plagued the team, came out of the halftime break aggressively. Senior forward Dom Morris tipped in his own missed shot for BU’s first points of the second frame.
During the ensuing minutes, Army found itself down by as many as 22 points. To make matters worse for the Black Knights, sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonné stood under the rim to stop any layup attempts, denying two consecutive Army chances. Dieudonné’s fast hands on the defensive end led to an open layup for senior guard D.J. Irving.
Despite Irving’s layup and Dieudonné’s strong play, BU continued its season-long trend of slowly giving back the lead built up during the first half of play.
In six minutes, Army went on a 24-10 run to cut the Terriers lead down to eight points with 9:30 left in the game.
As he had been doing all night, Hankerson responded to Army’s comeback attempt with a 3-pointer with 3:28 remaining in the half, giving BU a 70-62 lead.
The shot was not enough to ignite the BU offense, however, forcing the Terriers to fight off the Black Knights for the remainder of the game.
Army continued to shoot the deep ball well, and with another 3-point make from Cox with 1:30 remaining, the Black Knights tied the score at 70.
Irving looked to answer, and a jumper from the senior put the Terriers ahead by two with 1:06 left.
Following a timeout with 24 seconds remaining in the frame, Army moved the ball around the floor, allowing guard Kyle Wilson to find the hole and tie the game at 72 with just over 10 seconds left to play.
On its final possession of the second half, BU put the ball in the hands of Irving, who missed a fading jump shot as the clock expired, sending the game to overtime.
“I just wanted to get a good enough shot where I could make,” Irving said. “I got to the spot I wanted and it just didn’t fall for me.”
In overtime, however, it was Irving who did all the work for BU. After surrendering the lead to Army for the first time all game after a Wilson free throw, Irving went to the foul line on three consecutive possessions to give BU an 81-76 lead with 1:24 to go in the extra frame.
With 11.3 seconds remaining in overtime, the Black Knights trailed 84-81 and had an opportunity to extend the game. However, a missed 3-point attempt and a foul on junior forward Malik Thomas sealed the deal, giving BU another close victory.
“I was proud of the fact we were able to get it done in overtime, that shows a lot of character on our part,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “We made some big plays in overtime to win the game.”