The Boston University men’s basketball team made the trip down to Easton, Pennsylvania to take on Lafayette College Saturday and Sunday at Kirby Sports Center. The Terriers managed to sweep the Leopards, winning the first game 81-76 and the latter 64-61.
Going into the series, the Terriers were 1-5 in the Patriot League — a far cry from conference-winning material, as was projected by the preseason polls. Concurrently, they faced a tall task in battling the 5-1 Leopards led by senior guard Justin Jaworski, who led the nation in scoring going into the weekend.
The Terriers started out the series competitively, battling with the Leopards to a 38-38 score by halftime Saturday. After a team-leading 16 points by senior guard Javante McCoy, the Terriers bested their opponents handedly, never falling behind Lafayette in points in the second half.
“We knew what we were capable of … we just had to get time to mold as a team,” McCoy said in a post game press conference. “A win like this means a lot, so hopefully it can keep us rolling.”
The Terriers were also led defensively by junior guard Jonas Harper, who won All-Defensive Team honors in the 2020 Patriot League. Primarily tasked with guarding Jaworski, Harper was able to quell the star guard’s impact on the game, limiting him to a 20-point performance.
“We’re not the same program without [Harper]” head coach Joe Jones said. “He’s one of those guys that you appreciate so much because he’s going to give everything he’s got.”
Jones’ side has been battered with injuries so far this season, with starters McCoy, Harper and junior guard Walter Whyte seeing significant time off the court. Saturday’s game against Lafayette marked one of the first times the Terriers could field their best-starting four after a full week of practices.
Without this starting lineup, Jones said the team wasn’t cohesive and therefore fumbled at the start of the season.
“We just didn’t have any practice time together, so we were just completely disjointed,” Jones said. “Tonight you saw us playing the way we’re capable of playing.”
In the second matchup of the series, the Leopards and Terriers faced off in Kirby Sports Center again. The dominant performance for the Terriers Saturday continued for them in the first half Sunday, leading 35-31 by halftime. This tally marked the first time this season the Terriers have led at the half, as well as the only time the Leopards have fallen behind at the midway mark.
The second half was a tough battle on both sides, becoming a nail-biter as it closed out. In the final five minutes, only a single point separated the two teams for a while. The Terriers struggled offensively, shooting 27% from the field in the second half compared to their 48% shooting percentage in the game prior.
“It was a hard-fought win,” Jones said in a press conference Sunday. “I like these types of games when you don’t particularly play great offensively, but you still win. That’s a mark of a good team that can do that.”
Despite their inefficiencies with getting points on the board, the Terriers’ performance was defined by solid defensive play. The Leopards shot an abysmal 1-16 from beyond the arc in the second half — thanks to high-perimeter pressure by the Terriers.
“We basically tried to win the game by not giving up 3-point shots,” Jones said. “They had four guys along the perimeter that can all shoot. There was nobody that you could play off of.”
Individual defensive performances by Whyte and senior forward Sukhmail Mathon were particularly commendable, both with eight rebounds in the game.
Harper also was a highlight for the Terriers defensively, limiting Jaworski to 14 points when he averaged 21.7 ppg before Sunday. Harper’s steal and score late in the game became another defining moment for the Terriers.
“That play that [Harper] made, when he got the steal and made the layup in transition, that was the play of the game,” Jones said. “He didn’t make shots tonight, because we were exhausted, but that kid is unbelievable.”
McCoy was the Terrier’s leading scorer Sunday with 14, capping off a 30-point weekend for the senior. This meant he became the team’s 20th highest scorer of all time, marking his spot in Terrier history.
The Terriers will continue their season next weekend, facing the College of the Holy Cross on consecutive days. The Terriers will meet the Crusaders at 2 p.m. in Worcester, Massachusetts. Saturday and will come home Sunday to play at Case Gym at 5 p.m.