Holding on to the lead in the second half has been a problem for the Boston University men’s basketball team. This Saturday that trend continued, as the Terriers blew a 15-point halftime advantage in an 82-80 overtime loss to Lehigh University at Agganis Arena.
“We’ve had big leads, we’ve played really well, we have to learn how to sustain it,” said BU coach Joe Jones following the loss. “We’re a veteran team, it’s not something we should be dealing with right now.”
BU (15-8, 8-2 Patriot League) came into the contest seeking its sixth-straight home victory. The Mountain Hawks (12-11, 5-5 Patriot League) on the other hand, were looking to avenge a narrow 67-66 loss to the Terriers back on Jan. 5.
Senior forward Dom Morris started things for the Terriers, scoring on easy layups on two consecutive possessions. His two baskets pushed him over the 1000-point mark for his career at BU.
Morris finished the day with 17 points, two blocks and a game-high eight rebounds.
With the help and scoring of senior guard D.J. Irving, BU built up a lead. Irving played fearlessly through the first seven minutes of the contest, slashing through defenders, drawing contact from Lehigh defenders. His aggressiveness resulted in two 3-point play opportunities in less than a minute.
Sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., struggled to find open looks at the basket early on in the game. He finally got on the scoreboard with10:36 remaining in the half, hitting a mid-range jumper to put BU ahead 18-10.
On the other end, Lehigh struggled to break down the 2-3 zone defense put in place by Jones. BU forced seven turnovers from the Mountain Hawks in the first half, including four from guard Austin Price.
When the Mountain Hawks started to creep back into the contest, cutting the Terrier lead to 18-14 with 8:31 left in the half, BU got hot from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Cedric Hankerson’s 3-pointer with 3:20 remaining in the half, one of his three makes on the afternoon, extended the BU lead to 32-21.
Irving followed with another trey at the 1:41 mark, and sophomore guard John Papale drained a deep ball of his own as the clock ran out on the first half of play, giving the Terriers a 41-26 advantage heading into the break.
Irving led the Terriers at halftime with 12 points and four rebounds. Goldsborough and Kempton combined for 18 of the Mountain Hawks’ 26 points in the first half of action.
Lehigh came out of the locker room inspired, scoring three consecutive 3-pointers to cut the Terrier lead to six to start the second. However, Irving fought back with two makes of his own from downtown.
As the half continued, the Mountain Hawks found the offensive rhythm that they were missing earlier in the contest. Led by the post play of Kempton, Lehigh went on a 16-2 run to tie the game at 63-63 with 5:54 remaining.
Junior Stefan Cvrkalj hit a 3-pointer with 5:12 to go in the game to give Lehigh its first lead of the afternoon. Watson and Irving responded, with each making layups in consecutive possessions to put the Terrier on top 67-66 with 4:05 left.
After the game was tied again at 69-69, Papale hit a clutch 3-pointer to push the score to 72-69 in favor of the Terriers.
Free-throw shooting became an area of concern down the stretch, as BU shot 55 percent from the charity stripe on the afternoon. Morris, in particular, went 3-for-8 on the night.
With 40 seconds to go, Morris split a pair of free throws, giving forward Jesse Chuku a chance to tie the game at 73 with two free-throw makes of his own with 15 seconds remaining.
“We have to do those things better,” Jones said about the free throws. “If you’re going to let a team shoot 57 percent in the second half and then you’re going to shoot free throws that poorly, that’s kind of a recipe for disaster.”
Irving had a chance to win the game for BU with a buzzer-beating attempt, but like the Terriers’ last contest against the U.S. Military Academy, his shot rimmed out, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Lehigh used the momentum from its second half surge to jump out to a quick 78-74 advantage. However, on consecutive possessions, Irving hit a mid-range jumper and Papale knocked down another 3-point attempt to give BU a 79-78 lead with 1:43 left.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, the hot hand of guard Mackey McKnight proved to be too much to overcome, as he laid the ball in to the basket with less than a second left on the clock to seal the 82-80 victory for the Mountain Hawks.
While their team lost, the game proved to be not only a career night for Morris, but also for Irving, who went 10-for-17 from the floor and 4-for-6 from behind the 3-point line to match his season-high of 25 points.
Speaking about his team’s second half struggles, a visibly frustrated Jones talked about needing to play consistent basketball.
“We need to defend better in the second half of games,” Jones said. “We’re just getting torched right now. We usually do a good job in the first half but in the second half we really struggle to defend… We’re not getting the job done.”