With a chance to lock up home-court advantage for the upcoming Patriot League Tournament, the Boston University men’s basketball team fell to Bucknell University, 63-53.
To add insult to injury, Sunday’s game was Senior Day, which included an opening ceremony for the men’s basketball Class of 2014. The three seniors, forward Dom Morris, guard D.J. Irving and forward Travis Robinson, were joined by their parents and honored with flowers and their own framed jerseys.
The Terriers (20-9, 13-3 Patriot League) came into Sunday’s matchup on a five-game win streak, including a 71-62 victory in their most recent game against conference rival American University.
The Bison (14-13, 9-7 Patriot League) entered the game on a three-game win streak of their own. In each of those games, Bucknell held its opponent under 65 points.
Suffocating defense remained a theme for both teams in the first half Sunday. Neither team scored for the first three minutes of the game, combining for 0-for-8 from the field. BU scored the game’s first points on a layup from sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., at the 16:57mark in the half.
As the frame progressed, points came at a premium for the Terriers, who trailed 8-4 with 10:32 remaining in the half. The Bucknell defense held BU to just 2-of-14 from the field during this stretch.
“From the start that we had no energy,” Jones said. “It’s not an excuse because they outplayed us. I can’t blame our lack of energy on this loss. You’ve got to be able to play this game with emotion, and we did not play with enough emotion. In spurts we did, but for the most part we were emotionless.”
After struggling through the first 10 minutes, however, the Terriers started to create better opportunities. Though trailing for much of the half, the Terriers took a 23-22 lead into halftime following four straight free-throw makes from Watson and junior forward Malik Thomas.
BU came out with an aggressive mindset in the second half, taking Bucknell by surprise for the first four minutes. Sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonne sparked a 9-2 run with two 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Dieudonne led the team with 13 points and added six boards in his 21 minutes of play.
“We had more energy to start the half,” Irving said. “We began to play better defense and a couple of guys started making shots.”
Making some adjustments, the Bison stormed back. After an 11-2 run, Bucknell took a 40-38 lead with just under eight minutes left in the game. The Terriers never lost control of the game completely, but were unable to regain the lead. BU was outscored 41-30 in the second half, and has now been outscored by a combined 1089-1059 in second halves over the course of this season.
“That was more a lack of focus in previous games,” Jones said. “We were getting up big, but we weren’t able to handle those kinds of leads. This was a grind-it-out fist fight that we weren’t ready for. They play a lot like [the University of Virginia] and we knew we were going to have to be mentally and physically prepared.”
Although a disappointing day for the BU seniors, they can take solace in the fact that the team still controls its own destiny as leader by one game of the Patriot League. The Terriers hold the tiebreaker with American (16-11, 12-4 Patriot League) because they maintain a better non-conference record.
“We just have to forget about this and come to practice tomorrow with a new mindset and a new focus,” Irving said. “We just need to try and get better.”
With two games remaining, BU needs just one win or an American loss to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League tournament.
“We’ve got practice tomorrow, so we’ve got to come back and be ready to play,” Jones said. “We’ll be ready to go for our next game. It’s disappointing, but we’ve got to put this one behind us. If we compete we’ll be in good shape, but I can’t tell you that we deserved to win tonight.