Almost two weeks ago, the Boston University men’s basketball team won their first-ever Patriot League championship and were headed to their first NCAA Tournament since 2011 before the NCAA made the decision to cancel the tournament due to the spread of COVID-19.
The Terriers ended their season with a 21-13 record, their best finish since the 2013-14 season when BU went 24-11. The Terriers also took down Colgate University 64-61 in the championship game as they secured their debut Patriot League title.
BU head coach Joe Jones talked about how the team’s bond was the biggest reason for their success this season.
“I think the biggest thing is that we had a great culture amongst the players,” Jones said. “I thought they really bought into what we were trying to do.”
One of the things the team bought into was Jones’ use of the bench. The Terriers had 10 players who played at least 29 games this season, and nine of those players played at least 450 minutes.
Jones was proud of the team’s ability to buy-in to his message and share minutes as a team.
“That’s really been our thing,” Jones said about his use of the team’s depth over the course of the season. “The guys really bought into their roles, we didn’t have guys complaining about their roles.”
Specifically, Jones tabbed the minutes from the forward pairing of junior forward Sukhmail Mathon and sophomore forward Jack Hemphill.
“I think Sukh and Jack are really as good as any forwards coming off the bench last year,” Jones said. “That three-headed monster [senior forward Max Mahoney, Hemphill and Mathon] is as good as anybody. Being able to play those three guys was awesome.”
One of the biggest reasons for the Terriers’ success this season was Mahoney. Mahoney averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game on his way to being named a member of the First-Team All-Patriot League and Patriot League All-Defense team. He was also named Patriot League Player of the Tournament after putting up averages of 14.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
Jones had nothing but praise for Mahoney for what he contributed over the course of his career at BU.
“I think he was a kid that came in as a really talented young kid and really got better and better,” Jones said. “He really exemplified everything that you’re trying to be, all our core values he exemplified all of them. He was selfless, he was as good of a teammate as you’re going to ever find … I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid put it all together like that.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Walter Whyte missed the entirety of last year’s campaign after suffering a complication with a bone spur injury in his foot.
Whyte’s return to the lineup this season was huge for the Terriers. Over 34 games Whyte averaged 13 points and 7.4 rebounds on his way to being named Second-Team All-Patriot League.
Jones discussed the importance of Whyte to the Terriers over the course of his career.
“He just brings a lot to the table because he can defend all five positions, he’s a high-level rebounder, he’s gotten a lot better with his stroke, he’s a really high-level shooter,” Jones said. “He’s just going to get better and better.”
Junior guard Javante McCoy improved immensely over the course of this past season, averaging a career-high 12.2 points 3.5 assists per game. This improvement was best seen in conference play where McCoy averaged 14.2 points per game and shot a much improved 46 percent from the field, compared to his 41 percent mark for the season.
Jones praised McCoy’s improvement in his game this season as a huge reason for the Terriers season.
“[McCoy] obviously took a huge step,” Jones said. “Obviously he became one of the better guards in the league, and he always had the potential to be that way but then he was able to put it all together.”
While the Terriers were slated to head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, the tournament was canceled due to growing concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Jones said that despite the tournament’s cancellation, the team understands that some things are bigger than basketball.
“Obviously, it’s something we wish could have happened,” Jones said. “But I think I speak for all our players, especially our seniors, and [they] really understand that there is just more important things out there than playing in the NCAA Tournament.”
Looking ahead, the Terriers will have to move forward without their star senior Mahoney, who has used all four years of his eligibility. While the loss of Mahoney is huge, he is the only player who the Terriers lose that played more than 10 games this past season.
Jones said that the key to next season is maintaining the bond this team built this season.
“I think the biggest thing is that we make sure we maintain our culture,” Jones said. “I thought the biggest thing was the culture was right, and that put us in a position to be successful.”