Boston University’s players reacted as though they had just lost the national championship.
John Holland threw both hands in the air, bent over and pounded those hands ‘-‘- the same ones that scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds ‘-‘- on the Agganis Arena hardwood.
Matt Wolff yanked his jersey over his head and couldn’t bear to glance at George Washington University’s bench.
Tyler Morris placed his hand over his jaw, wielded a piercing stare and paced around until it was time to begrudgingly remove it before the post-game handshakes.
All this after the season opener against a non-conference opponent.
But, in actuality, and given BU’s reaction following its 63-58 overtime loss to the Colonials Friday night, it wasn’t an ordinary first loss. The Terriers squandered a five-point overtime lead, failed to convert on four consecutive fastbreak opportunities (three coming off steals) in the extra session, missed key free throws down the stretch and couldn’t win a game in which they forced 26 turnovers.
‘It’s disappointing on a lot of levels. I think what makes it disappointing when they say [we didn’t] finish it out is that we didn’t not finish it out for lack of effort,’ BU coach Dennis Wolff said.
GW’s Damian Hollis scored all five of his points in overtime ‘-‘- as he and the Colonials fed off a blocked layup by Wynton Witherspoon (13 points) with three minutes to go in the game ‘-‘- to seal the victory.
In addition to the absence of a shooting game (BU connected on just 29.7 percent of its shots), the Terriers were without the services of junior forward Scott Brittain (concussion) and seemingly without the services of last year’s leading scorer, junior Corey Lowe (7 points).
Lowe had arguably the worst game in his two-year career at BU, as he shot 2-of-15 from the field (1-of-11 beyond the arc), missed two free throws that would have put BU within one with 12 seconds remaining in OT and committed a costly double dribble while the teams were struggling to score in the final five minutes of regulation.
‘I thought we were fortunate because Corey Lowe didn’t have the normal shooting game that he usually has,’ GW coach Karl Hobbs said. ‘For us, that was the main reason why we won the basketball game.’
Lowe did, however, provide the most crucial play of the evening for BU. With 14 seconds left in regulation, the Colonials inbounded the ball and Noel Wilmore fired an errant 3-pointer. Lowe collected the rebound with eight seconds remaining, drove the length of the floor and laid the ball in to force overtime.
‘I thought we lost the game,’ Hobbs said. ‘I was walking down to shake Dennis’ hand and he looked at me like, ‘I think Karl has lost his mind.’ Obviously he smiled, but I literally thought we lost the game because it was just that type of game.’
Prior to that bucket, the contest’s biggest shots came from Holland. The reigning America East Rookie of the Year drained four 3s, including two that bookended a scoring drought of roughly six minutes in the second half. Holland’s left-corner 3 with 3:49 remaining in the first half gave the Terriers their first lead of the day, 24-23, after trailing by 10 early.
‘We all love John Holland, but if you watched him practice last week and then saw this ‘-‘- if I had told you this was going to happen ‘-‘- you would have said I’d been drinking all week,’ Wolff, who then called Holland’s performance the best he’s had at BU (including the Bronx native’s 38-point outburst against Hartford last year), said.
‘With the injury [to Brittain], we had to use John at a position he was totally unfamiliar with. John deserves a lot of credit for making the adjustment on the fly and in a heated game like that, knowing where to go and what to do,’ he added.
Holland wasn’t the only Terrier forced into an unfamiliar role because of Brittain’s injury. Freshman Jake O’Brien performed admirably in his inaugural collegiate contest, scoring eight points (3-of-11), rejecting three shots ‘-‘- including two against GW’s best interior player, Rob Diggs (12 points, 14 rebounds) ‘-‘- and grabbing six rebounds.
‘Coming in for Scott, I was going to play a different position, so I knew I was going to be matched up with a bigger, more physical player. I had to definitely have to have a tougher mindset in this game,’ O’Brien said.
Junior Carlos Strong (14 points) also had an impressive night along with Matt Wolff, who appears in better shape than he was in last season. Wolff pulled down eight rebounds, led BU with four assists and set the tone physically against a much larger team.
While there were positives to extract from the loss, the ability to show poise and close out games will be an ongoing Everest for the Terriers. It’s something BU hasn’t been able to do consistently during the last two seasons, and this year is expected to be different.
Friday wasn’t a good start.
‘I think we have a lot more confidence in each other as a team,’ Matt Wolff said. ‘We’re going to play as hard as we can every night, but we need to learn how to finish a game every night.’
Game Notes: Friday’s loss marked the first time a season opener has gone into overtime in the 100-year history of BU basketball. ‘hellip; BU has lost six of its last seven season openers. ‘hellip; At halftime BU retired the No. 10 jersey of the late Jack Leaman, a co-captain of the 1958-59 BU team that reached the first NCAA Tournament in school history. ‘hellip; BU removed the curtain on the far end of the court and opened more seats to accommodate the 4,624 spectators. ‘hellip; Brittain will not travel with the team to Pennsylvania for Tuesday’s game against Bucknell.