Basketball, Sports

Men’s basketball falls to NJIT, 2015-16 season comes to a close

BU’s woeful second half created a gap that was far too large for any team to overcome. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The second round of the Tournament was over almost as soon as it began for the Boston University men’s basketball team.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology corralled the opening tip, and guard Damon Lynn fired off three 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to give the Highlanders (19-14) a 9-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

For the rest of the half, the Terriers (19-15) played a step slower and out of sync and found themselves facing what would be an insurmountable 18-point halftime deficit.

The Highlanders then cruised to a comfortable 83-72 victory on their home floor, and the Terriers’ season of peaks and valleys finally came to an end.

Similar to the team’s Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal against American University, the Terriers’ lackluster first half in Newark, New Jersey left BU head coach Joe Jones searching for answers.

“We’ve got to learn to be ready to compete,” Jones said. “I look at the American playoff game and I look at this game and I just say, ‘I don’t think we came out with the right mindset in terms of how tough we’re going to play.’”

Lynn exploited the Terrier defense all night long, scoring a game-high 31 points. Lynn had struggled in recent weeks, but he found his shooting touch against the Terriers.

“He killed us,” Jones said. “With a guy that good, you can’t let him get hot. We were just struggling, whether it was man or zone. We really struggled to guard him.”

Lynn was one of four Highlanders to reach double figures. On the other end of the court, senior guard John Papale, playing in what would be his final collegiate game, topped the Terriers with 19 points.

Early in the second half, it looked as if the wheels might have come off when junior guard Eric Fanning was assessed a technical foul, his fourth overall foul on the night, after he let his frustrations get the best of him.

But sparked by the infectious energy of younger players like sophomore forward Nick Havener and sophomore guard Cheddi Mosely, the Terriers cut into the Highlander lead. BU scored 52 points in the second half and went 8-of-15 from beyond the arc after going just 2-for-14 from downtown in the first frame.

Still, the Highlanders and Lynn had an answer for every BU comeback and never let them get within single digits in the second half.

Jones pointed to the team’s previous performance — a 69-66 road win over Fordham University in the tournament’s opening round — as an example of what can happen when his team comes out with grit and enthusiasm. But in other big moments, like the team’s Patriot League Tournament loss, BU has struggled to compete at a high level.

“Sometimes, it takes time before you’re ready to take a step as a program,” Jones said. “You have to kind of get bounced around a little bit. Maybe we’ll get to a point now where guys have played in enough of these games that they’re ready to go.”

Losing just two players to graduation, BU will head into the 2015-16 season with a roster that Jones said might be packed with the most talent in the Patriot League. However, Jones knows that talent is not the issue.

To take the program to the next echelon of competitiveness, the Terriers must learn how to consistently play when the lights are the brightest. And Jones said he is ready to help them get there.

“We’ve got enough talent,” Jones said. “Now it’s about learning from these experiences and overcoming and learning how to win on a big stage. That’s what you have to be able to do to get to the NCAA Tournament, to win a conference championship. That’s what we have to get to. I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting us there.”

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Jackie is a sports reporter for The Daily Free Press and has previously served as Managing Editor and Associate Sports Editor of the FreeP. At this moment, she's probably watching Shark Tank and thinking of ways to work, "and for that reason, I'm out," into casual conversations. Please send all inquiries in the form of a box combo from Cane's with no coleslaw and extra fries or follow her on Twitter at @jackie_bam

One Comment

  1. Same old song and dance with Jones. I played for him at Columbia, and he’s really a bad coach. A charming person from the outside, but absolutely no ability to inspire loyalty or trust in his players. He’s a vindictive control freak. I feel really bad for the players at BU right now, because I can really empathize with them. But I can’t help but feel a LOT of schadenfreude at seeing him continue to fail as a basketball coach. Man, I do not like him.