Basketball, Sports

Men’s basketball set to start playoff run, faces Loyola

Eric Fanning will lead the Terriers on a quest to make the NCAA Tournament in his final season. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Boston University men’s basketball team will begin its quest for a Patriot League title and NCAA Tournament invitation on Thursday night when it hosts Loyola University Maryland at Case Gym.

The matchup was solidified for the Terriers (17-13, 12-6 Patriot League) after the Greyhounds (15-15, 8-10 Patriot League) downed Lafayette College 67-64 in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament.

Loyola had been down 64-63 when sophomore James Fives put in back-to-back free throws to enable his team to take the lead for good. Lafayette (9-21, 5-13 Patriot League) was unable to convert the rest of the game and had its season terminated.

The Terriers are quite familiar with the Greyhounds, playing them twice throughout this season, with both teams winning on their home courts.

“Loyola is a tough team, a very good team,” said BU head coach Joe Jones. “They have three really talented guys in [Cam] Gregory, [Jarred] Jones, and [Andre] Walker. The last time we played them they played without a pretty big piece of their team in [Andrew] Kostecka, who is one of the better 3-point shooters, so he’ll be back. They had a great win last night so I’m sure they’ll be fired up and ready to go.”

In the first meeting that took place on the Greyhounds’ turf, BU had one of its worst shooting performances of the season, going 1-for-18, 5.6 percent, from the 3-point range in a 77-69 loss. Senior guard Eric Fanning was practically the only player making positive plays as he put up his second of three double-doubles of the year with 27 points and 13 rebounds.

On the opposite end of the court, Loyola converted on 52.9 percent of its 3-pointers en route to establishing an insurmountable 12-point halftime lead.

The script was flipped the next time the two teams met, with BU in control throughout the game following a back-and-forth start. With 8:31 remaining in the first half, BU was down 16-19, however, a 20-8 run by the Terriers gave them a commanding 36-27 lead that they never relinquished.

In this upcoming matchup, BU will be looking to exploit the Greyhounds’ propensity for turnovers by pressuring them on defense. Loyola has the third most turnovers in the Patriot League and a combined 40 in the two matchups versus BU. They also have a Patriot League worst 42.4 percent overall from the field, which would seem to fit perfectly for the Terriers, who sport the best field goal percentage defense in the league, allowing opponents to shoot just 42.7 percent on the season.

“It’s funny, going into the season that’s probably the last thing you would’ve thought was going to happen,” Jones said of his team leading the conference in defensive field goal percentage. “Offensively, I thought we’d be a lot higher in terms of our shooting percentage and so we’ve changed as the seasons gone on. The zone and our press really had an impact and our guys really bought into it.”

While striving for defensive perfection will be the goal, BU will rely on its three award-winning players to shoulder the load. Fanning was named to his second consecutive First Team All-Patriot League honor, while senior forward Justin Alston got his first All-League nod, being named to the Second-Team All-Patriot League and freshman forward Tyler Scanlon earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team.

Jones attributed the honors to the hard work of each player and the team environment that allowed them to thrive.

“As those guys had individual attention put upon them, they had much more to do with the team’s success,” Jones said. “If we don’t finish second place we don’t get two guys, one on the First Team, one on the Second and an All-Rookie guy.”

For the Terriers, they hope this game is the first of many this postseason, and will need Fanning, Alston and Scanlon to play at a high level if they hope to move on. In order for that to happen, the Terriers need every man on their roster to contribute.

“I told the guys this yesterday — I think the awards they got were all benefitted from great teammates,” Jones said. “As good of a season as those guys had individually, our guys did a great job of getting them the ball and there were some guys who really sacrificed a lot for those guys to have opportunities to play and display their talents. That’s why I love our team time and time again.”

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