Aggressive defense powered the Boston University men’s basketball team to its first road win of the season at the United States Naval Academy Thursday night.
The Terriers (8-7, 3-0 Patriot League) finished the night with a 71-53 victory. The Terriers had a season-high 19 steals, as sophomore guard Kyle Foreman led the team with five steals. This is BU’s third straight victory, as well as the third straight game in which the team has held its opponents below 40 percent shooting.
This overlap is no coincidence. The Terriers’ harassing zone defense has been the driving force behind their hot start in Patriot League play.
“We played zone, and had active hands in the zone,” said BU head coach Joe Jones. “I thought our guys anticipated really well. They would get deflections, which led to steals. It was good to see. Kyle is very good at that, and they were all pretty active.”
The Terriers’ defense forced the Midshipmen (5-10, 0-3 Patriot League) into 27 turnovers, off of which BU scored 34 points. Navy turned the ball over 11 more times than BU, which helped the Terriers make up for the fact that they were out-rebounded 36-25.
While the Terriers were up by as many as 29 points, the first half was competitive, as they trailed early on and went into the locker room with an eight-point lead.
Just over five minutes into the second half, BU went on a 13-0 run, ignited by a 3-pointer from junior guard Will Goff. After the run ended, the Terriers continued to build their lead and led by at least 20 points until the final minute.
Leading the way for the Terriers again was senior forward Justin Alston. The Washington D.C. native finished with 14 points on 6-8 shooting. He has scored double figures in each of the past five games.
Jones said that Alston’s numbers stem directly from his effort.
“He’s playing very hard, I think that’s the one thing that you see that he’s doing,” said Jones. “He’s competing, and that’s the thing that I’m most pleased with.”
Alston was not the only Terrier to play well offensively. BU’s large lead in the second half allowed a plethora of Terriers to see time on the court. Of the eight players that came off the bench, five got on the scoring sheet and contributed a total of 29 points to the game.
Goff hit four 3-pointers in his 18 minutes off the bench. Freshman forward Max Mahoney contributed six points and BU’s leading scorer, senior guard Eric Fanning, struggled on Thursday night, scoring three points.
Jones said that when BU can turn to the bench, it takes pressure off of its starters and brings the team closer together on the court.
“We’re getting good contributions from our bench,” Jones said. “To have guys step in and play well, that really helps us. It helps build confidence with the team, that they know that they can count on these guys to get it done. That’s the big thing.”
As a team, the Terriers shot 12-27 from downtown. Goff and junior guard Cedric Hankerson each had four 3-pointers.
While Jones was not always happy with his team’s ball movement, he thought it allowed them to be effective from behind the arc and build a big lead.
“[Navy] was three-quarter court trapping us, and we were able to move the ball all around and create good shots for ourselves,” Jones said.
As the Terriers get prepared for a matchup at Lafayette College, they’ll look to stay hot and continue to develop team chemistry, which will be crucial down the stretch.