Despite graduate student guard Javante McCoy’s late-game heroics, the Boston University men’s basketball team was eliminated from the Patriot League tournament Sunday at the hands of the United States Naval Academy.
After defeating Loyola University Maryland in the Patriot League quarterfinals on Thursday night, BU (21-12, 11-7 Patriot League) fell to Navy (21-10 , 12-6 PL) in the semifinals at Navy’s Alumni Hall, 80-85 in overtime.
“[McCoy] was extraordinary. One of the best performances I’ve had in my coaching career is what that kid did with the season on the line and how many plays he made,” BU head coach Joe Jones said postgame.
This was the third matchup between the Terriers and the Midshipmen this season — BU lost both of the previous matchups.
Sophomore guard Miles Brewster started instead of senior guard and forward Walter Whyte, who missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.
McCoy tied his career-high with 30 points in the loss. Senior guards John Carter Jr. and Greg Summers led the way for the Midshipman with 21 points apiece.
The Terriers got off to a slow start — at one point, BU was held scoreless for over five minutes by Navy’s staunch defense.
A strong defensive effort by the Terriers matched the Midshipmen’s effort, and kept BU in the game early.
The Terriers trailed 27-23 at halftime after a remarkably low-scoring 20 minutes.
Bench points were the difference for Navy in the first half, as the Midshipmen had 21 to the Terriers’ three.
The game tightened up in the second half, with the two teams trading baskets. When 15 minutes had lapsed off the clock in the half, the score was knotted at 54 — the scene was set for a thrilling finish.
Graduate student forward Sukhmail Mathon — a formidable force in the low post, on the boards and on the defensive end of the court — was whistled for his fourth foul with 4:42 to go.
Jones opted to rest Mathon for a brief stretch, and slot in freshman forward Malcolm Chimezie at center.
BU stayed with Navy in Mathon’s absence — the game was tied at 58 points when the Patriot League Player of the Year checked back in with 2:39 on the clock.
After Mathon scored to put BU back up by a point, the Midshipmen posted a 6-0 run, taking a 65-60 lead with just 22 seconds left. Navy maintained its five-point advantage with two free throws from junior forward Tyler Nelson, which pushed the score to 67-62 in favor of the Midshipmen with 13 seconds to go.
Navy, a subpar free-throw shooting team this season, rarely missed from the charity stripe in crunch time. The Midshipmen shot 80% from the line in the game, and knocked down a series of clutch free throws in the final minute.
With the odds stacked against BU, McCoy put the team on his back in breathtaking fashion.
First, the fifth-year player pulled up and calmly drained a three-pointer from well behind the arc in transition to pull the Terriers back within two points.
BU quickly sent Navy junior guard Sean Yoder to the line, hoping for at least one missed shot to keep its chances at tying the game alive.
Yoder missed one of his two attempts at the line and the game remained within a possession for BU with eight seconds left.
McCoy took the ball up the court, used a screen from Mathon to find a sliver of open space, and fired a stepback off-balance three-pointer with less than four seconds remaining.
He drilled it.
McCoy’s shot tied the game at 68, and sent the Terrier bench and fan section into a frenzy.
After a buzzer-beating effort from Navy missed the mark, the focus shifted to a five-minute overtime period.
Both teams had yet to win a game in overtime this season.
Navy caught fire in the overtime period, shooting five-for-eight from the field and two-for-four from long-range. Though McCoy continued to will BU by knocking down seemingly each difficult shot he took, it wasn’t enough.
Navy built another five-point advantage, and the Terriers couldn’t replicate their regulation heroics.
BU resorted to fouling the Midshipmen, and Navy barely missed from the free-throw line in the overtime period, sealing the heartbreaking loss for BU.
“That was a championship caliber game with two teams towards the top of our league,” Jones said. “And some really experienced players and some great players making big time plays.”
The loss marks the end of an era at BU. Mathon, Whyte and McCoy all returned to BU with the hopes of playing in the NCAA tournament. The Terriers, with Mathon, Whyte and McCoy, along with senior guards Fletcher Tynen and Jonas Harper, each on the roster, earned a spot in March Madness in the 2019-2020 campaign, but never played in the tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[I’ve] been around these guys for five years, they become like your sons. It’s gonna be tough, not seeing some of these guys every day,” Jones said.
Jones commended his core of players for sticking with the program rather than leaving to play professionally.
“Javante, Sukh and Walt all were good enough players to kind of leave and play at a higher level…and they all came back. That’s really rare in college basketball now, that guys stay loyal to the program,” Jones said. “It was just a joy to be around that core of guys for, some of them for five years, you get spoiled.”