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Men’s basketball finishes with strong 1st season in PL

After the Boston University men’s basketball team was defeated by the University of Illinois in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament and saw its season come to a close, the mood in the ensuing press conference was dismal.

JUNHEE CHUNG/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO Senior guard D.J. Irving finished his final season at BU claiming Second-Team All-Patriot League Honors

JUNHEE CHUNG/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO
Senior guard D.J. Irving finished his final season at BU claiming Second-Team All-Patriot League Honors

During that press conference, however, BU coach Joe Jones echoed a piece of wisdom spoken by one of the team’s leaders.

“I think [senior forward] Dom Morris said it best,” Jones said, “He said, ‘We have nothing to hang our heads about.’”

Certainly, there was nothing shameful about the 2013-14 campaign for the Terriers (24-11, 15-3 Patriot League).

BU claimed the Patriot League regular season title in just its first year in the conference, and clinched home-court advantage for the entire Patriot League Tournament.

At the start of the regular season, the Terriers gained national attention with an 83-77 out-of-conference road win against the University of Maryland on Dec. 21.

“Obviously the Maryland win was a huge win for the program,” Jones said. “I love the fact that we didn’t rest on that, that we kept fighting.”

The Terriers then made a strong first impression on the conference, beginning its Patriot League schedule with a six-game winning streak. Two days later though, the Terriers met their match in Washington D.C., where the Eagles (20-13, 13-5 Patriot League) crushed BU by 30 points.

BU rallied back from the loss and ended the regular season by going 9-2 in its remaining games, including a 71-62 win over American in the two teams’ rematch. BU finally clinched a No. 1 seed for the conference tournament with a 68-64 win over College of the Holy Cross on March 1.

The team made an initial splash in the Patriot League Tournament, crushing Lafayette College and the U.S. Military Academy in the first two rounds by a combined score of 182-124.

Yet, as was the story in the regular season, the Eagles were there to spoil the Terriers’ run. With a disciplined defense and efficient shooting, American defeated BU in the championship game, 55-36.

Although the Terriers failed to make the NCAA Tournament, they were chosen to participate in the NIT, with its first game against the Fighting Illini (20-15) on March 19. Despite leading for most of the game, the Terriers fell out of the postseason when guard Rayvonte Rice reenergized his team in the second half and carried Illinois into the second round of the tournament.

For the year, BU’s most notable leader was sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr. The guard improved his all-around game this year, and stacked up even more accolades since being selected to the America East Conference All-Rookie Team as a freshman.

The Philadelphia native was named to the 2013-14 First Team All-Patriot League and finished third in the nation with 7.1 assists per game. The guard also led the conference in assists, a feat he also accomplished as a rookie in the America East.

In addition to his assists, Watson led the Terriers in points with 13.3 per game and steals with 2.1 per game.

Morris was another essential part of BU’s success during his final year. He finished fourth in the league in rebounding with 6.1 per game, and seventh in field goal percentage with .526, leading the team in both categories.

A fellow captain and senior, guard D.J. Irving, also made large contributions throughout the season. Although Irving did not play up to the high expectations surrounding him after being voted Preseason Patriot League Player of the Year, he demonstrated his strong shooting abilities when it mattered most.

Against the Black Knights (15-16, 10-8 Patriot League) in the conference semifinals, Irving finished with 20 points. The Chester, Pa., native then scored 17 points in the NIT matchup with the Fighting Illini. Moreover, the guard was named as a member of the Second-Team All-Patriot League.

“I think our senior class did an amazing job of being leaders,” Jones said. “I think they were great teammates, they really cared about winning. I thought that they were a great model for our young guys to follow in terms of the way they carried themselves.

“They weren’t perfect by any stretch, but they were terrific for our young guys to watch and learn from.”

Part of the younger contingent that was successful this year was freshman guard Cedric Hankerson. He was another Terrier awarded at the end of the season, getting named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team.

Even though the Terriers fell short of the NCAA Tournament and fell in its one postseason game, Jones was pleased with how the season went.

“I thought it was very successful season, we hit a lot of our goals that we had,” Jones said. “We were able to beat a lot of the major teams that were on our schedule. We wanted to have a successful first season in the Patriot League, we wanted to win the regular season, we were able to do that.

“We came up short in the last goal, and that was to win the conference tournament and go on to the NCAA Tournament. We were one game away from doing that, so I’d say it was a very successful season.”

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