Basketball, NCAA, Sports

Men’s basketball advances to conference semifinals with win over Navy

The Boston University men’s basketball team rose victorious against their familiar foe Navy, 70-61, advancing to the semifinals of the Patriot League tournament. 

Junior guard Ethan Okwuosa (1) drives to the basket in a game against Navy on Thursday. The Terriers beat the Midshipmen 70-61, advancing to the Patriot League semifinals. MOLLY POTTER/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

After splitting the regular season series, Navy (13-18, 8-10 Patriot League) came into the game having won their last five games, including a comfortable 64-48 win over Loyola Maryland in the first round.

Navy’s sophomore guard Austin Benigni has challenged the entire PL from the point, BU (16-16, 10-13 PL)  included, all year long. Alongside him was another league leader in both rebounds and steals, Navy’s sophomore forward Donovan Draper, who is a two-way athletic phenom.

“Navy did a fantastic job this year after losing eight straight, to rattle off five wins in a row is really remarkable,” Terriers head coach Joe Jones said. “I was really proud of our effort and focus, the first one is always the hardest.”

Indeed, in what was a first collegiate playoff game for some of Jones’ players, both teams really struggled to begin the game. 

The Terriers finally got into an offensive rhythm when senior forward Anthony Morales swished a three. With some great off-ball activity and finding buckets inside, a familiar weapon helped BU to a 9-2 run to give them an early 16-6 lead. 

Unfortunately for the Terriers, however, they fell victim to their achilles heel —  forwards getting into foul trouble. Sophomore forward Nico Nobili committed two fouls in the game’s first three minutes, and sophomore forward Otto Landrum had picked up his third personal in the second half.

As a result, Morales had to play some heavy minutes off the bench, and was sometimes placed in the center position.

“When I decided to come back after the [transfer] portal, it was whatever [Jones] needed me to do, I go do it,” Morales said. “When I made that promise to him I told him I was gonna hold true to that.”

Despite finishing the half 1-9 from the field and scoreless in the last three minutes, BU held a six-point lead into the locker room.

After going without a point in the first, which is unusual for him, freshman guard Kyrone Alexander flipped a switch when he scored his next three shots. He hit a corner three, followed by a tough fallaway shot and an off-dribble mid-range to build the Terrier lead to 43-33.

What really sealed the deal for BU, and showed great maturity from the home team, was timely plays by unsung heroes. Sophomore guard Ben Roy played 28 minutes filled with constant energy, and freshman forward Matai Baptiste seemed to always find himself at the right place at the right time for nine points. 

To finish the game, in a scrappy press-break that almost ended in a 10-second violation, senior guard Miles Brewster threw the ball ahead for junior guard Ethan Okwuosa who finished the layup. 

The Terriers are now onto the PL semifinals. 

That’s where the Lehigh Mountain Hawks await, after an upset at Lafayette. Their two games have been determined by a combined three points, and Jones expects this one to be no different.

“Another absolute war,” Jones said. “ They will be ready, they have talent … we will have our hands full. It will be a great contest.”

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