The Boston University men’s basketball team came out with a narrow 71-70 victory against the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.Wednesday night.
With this win, the Terriers (21-9, 14-3 Patriot League) clinched at least a share of first place in the conference. The Black Knights (13-15, 9-8 Patriot League), on the other hand, finish the regular season sitting in fifth place.
The Terriers jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the opening five minutes with the help of senior forward Dom Morris, who made to early baskets near the rim.
The two sides remained relatively close for the first 10 minutes, at which point Army held a 10-9 lead.
After the Black Knights scored eight straight points, sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., scored on a fast break after junior forward Nathan Dieudonne got a steal in the backcourt and tossed the ball ahead to Watson.
With 5:45 left in the first, Watson penetrated the Army defense and kicked a pass out to senior forward Travis Robinson, who nailed a 3-pointer.
Guard Kyle Wilson, though, came right back, stroking a three that brought the Army lead to 23-18.
Center Kevin Ferguson’s all-around play helped extend the Black Knights’ lead to 10 after he hit a pair of free throws and dished a pass to guard Josh Herbeck for a layup.
Army’s 33-23 halftime lead was largely due to turnovers. The Terriers committed nine in the first half compared to the Black Knights’ three.
Down but not out, sophomore guard John Papale led the Terriers back into the contest during the second with his 3-point shooting.
Papale hit his first three 30 seconds into the half, and then another two minutes later to cut the lead to five.
“[Papale]’s unbelievable,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a kid who’s capable of going on runs like that. It’s unbelievable what [he’s] been able to do. He’s done it time and time again in the last two years.”
The Terriers then tried to capitalize by implementing a full-court press, which the Black Knights broke down easily, as they found Ferguson for a layup with 16 minutes to go.
A minute later, Herbeck shot a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim and the backboard before falling in to make the score 41-33. Another trey by Wilson increased the lead to 11 — the largest of the game at that point — with 14 minutes left.
The hustle of sophomore forward Justin Alston helped inch BU closer. After an Army field goal, Alston slipped behind the Black Knights’ defense, where Papale found him for a dunk that shook the backboard.
After a steal on defense, Watson fired a pass from the opposite foul line to under Army’s basket, where Alston laid the ball in to cut the lead to 6.
The hot shooting of Papale continued, though, as the sophomore hit a 3-pointer from deep in the backcourt with 10:40 remaining in the game. Two minutes later, Papale converted another three in the corner that gave the Terriers a 54-53 lead, their first advantage since the 9:42 mark of the first half.
Right out of a BU timeout with 4:40 left, Watson raised his level of performance on the offensive end. First, the point guard dribbled through three Army defenders in the paint to convert a left-handed layup to make the score and give the Terriers a three-point lead.
On the next trip down, Watson received a tough pick from Morris, which gave the guard room to pull up and drain a deep 2-pointer.
Yet for every move made by Watson, Wilson answered for the Black Knights. During that sequence, Wilson himself took a midrange jumper, and then followed that with a 3-pointer to bring the lead down to two.
In the final seconds of the game, with BU up 71-70, Army nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback.
The Black Knights were given the ball with seven seconds left after Watson was called for a 5-second violation on an attempted inbounds play. After Wilson missed a midrange jumper, Army collected the rebound and managed to hit a prayer of a shot as the buzzer sounded.
However, the referees reviewed the play that would have won the game for the Black Knights, and ruled that the shot took place after time had expired.
Papale’s accurate shooting gave him 19 points on the night, which included a 5-for-6 performance from 3-point range. Irving delivered a strong all-around effort, contributing 9 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
“I was really pleased with the way we responded in the second half, but I thought in the first half we turned it over a ton,” Jones said. “And I really thought Army played with great passion from the start of the game.”
“We responded in the second half, got loose balls, got rebounds, got stops. We got out in transition and made two huge plays down the stretch. It was a great team win.”