Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, the Boston University men’s basketball team has relied upon the play of its backcourt. Wednesday’s Patriot League quarterfinal matchup against Lafayette College was no exception, as sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., and senior guard D.J. Irving led the team to a 91-54 victory.
Watson came into the contest riding a successful regular season, leading BU (23-9, 15-3 Patriot League) in points per game (13.7), steals (2.2) and assists (6.6).
While Irving has had a quieter season than Watson statistically, the tri-captain has been a leader for the Terriers, inspiring underclassmen with his work ethic.
Earlier this week, Watson and Irving were rewarded for their efforts when the Patriot League announced yearly awards. Watson was the lone Terrier selected to the All-Patriot League First Team, while Irving was a representative on the All-Second Team.
BU coach Joe Jones said there are advantages to having the backcourt.
“That’s been the luxury of having [Watson and Irving],” Jones said. “There aren’t too many teams in the country that have two guards that can do what they can do. It’s why we’re a unique team and it’s why we’re a dangerous team. If Mo gets in foul trouble, D.J. steps in and does a great job. Those guys can also play together. “
Irving said the team came into the matchup with the Leopards (11-20, 6-12 Patriot League) looking to send a message to the Patriot League.
“We feel like we’re the best team in this league and we know that having a No. 1 seed is important, especially in this tournament when you’re the top seed, you play every game at home,” Irving said. “We definitely wanted to make a statement.”
Against the Leopards, the duo validated their accolades with stellar play. Watson started things early, slashing through the Lafayette defense to score eight points in the opening five minutes. Not to be outdone, Irving stole the ball from center Nathaniel Musters and drove the length of the court for a layup to give BU a 10-5 lead.
When the Terriers started to pull away from the Leopards midway through the first, Watson and Irving made sure that BU stayed focused. After freshman guard Cedric Hankerson drained a 3-pointer to give the Terriers a 22-13 advantage, Watson played lockdown defense, forcing his man to dribble out of bounds. Though Lafayette cut the Terrier lead to 10 with just over six minutes remaining in the half, Irving re-energized the team by knocking down a 3-pointer.
Watson’s confidence in his teammates was on full display when he dished the ball to senior guard Travis Robinson who lined up for a 3-point shot. Before the ball even left Robinson’s hands, Watson held up three fingers in celebration. Sure enough, the ball went in.
“That’s how I feel every time one of my teammates shoots,” Watson said about the moment. “I have the utmost confidence that every time I give these guys the ball, and they put it up, it’s going in.”
At the break, Watson led all players with 15 points to go along with four assists and two rebounds. Irving added nine points of his own.
To start the second half, Irving played a perfect pass to senior forward Dom Morris, who laid the ball in for the first points of the frame. Two minutes later, Morris received a beautiful feed, this time from Watson, to extend the Terrier lead to 46-29 with 17:20 remaining.
On the next BU possession, Watson hit a contested mid-range jumper and at the other end of the court, he grabbed a rebound off of a missed 3-point attempt from guard Bryce Scott and sank a layup to complete the four-point swing.
In addition to providing points, Watson and Irving also catalyzed the play of their teammates. One of the most electrifying moments of the game came at the 7:03 mark when Watson threw the ball up for sophomore forward Justin Alston to slam into the basket.
Watson ended the night close to a triple-double, garnering 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Irving had 17 points, two rebounds and three assists.
“He’s gonna get it,” Irving said about Watson’s search for the illusive triple-double. “Especially now, come playoff time. That’s when big time players have big time games.”
Conversely, Watson praised Irving’s effort in the game.
“D.J.’s our veteran,” Waston said. “He’s our captain and our go-to guy. For me to be able to sit down and for him to shine the way he did, it just gets the rest of the team going. When you see one person coming out and playing hard, the rest of the team thrives off of that.”