The Boston University men’s basketball team made just 13-of-54 shots in a 44-42 loss to the University of Hartford before the largest crowd of the season Tuesday night at Case Gymnasium.
For the first time since losing to the University of Vermont (13-5, 8-1 America East) on Jan. 7, BU looked out of sync, confused and labored, as shot after shot rimmed out, and free-throw shooting — BU’s season-long Achilles’ heel — played a key role down the stretch in the loss.
Freshman guard Chaz Carr led the Terriers (13-8, 7-2 America East) on offense, scoring 17 points but shooting just 5-of-16.
Head coach Dennis Wolff was the first to admit BU had no business winning the game.
“We needed to play with a lot more poise and a lot more relaxed on offense, and we didn’t,” Wolff said. “So we got beat.”
Hartford head coach Larry Harrison was quick to praise his team for its effort in beating the second-place team in the conference. Although Hartford is in third place in America East, the Terriers have four more non-conference wins than the Hawks.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game,” Harrison said. “This was a statement game for us that we are very competitive and we are going to be a team that they need to beat to win the conference.”
The Terriers played their worst basketball of the season in the first half, going just 8-of-37 from the floor, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range. After a 9-8 lead at 15:04, BU played catch-up to Hartford, as the Hawks’ lead grew as large as eight at 20-12, and to six on two other occasions. Hartford led at halftime, 24-19, and BU’s 19 points in the first frame marks a season low.
Despite all that, BU had a chance to sneak away with a victory as time ran down. The Terriers actually took the lead for a short time late in the second half, but Hartford (9-13, 6-3 America East) tied things at 40 with just over six minutes to play.
In the next three minutes, BU missed four consecutive free-throws and did not score a point on three straight possessions. But Hartford was equally futile, managing to match BU stride for stride in the clang department.
Freshman forward Rashad Bell took a pass from Carr and brought the crowd of 1,030 to its feet with an emphatic slam dunk with 3:16 to go. The Roof was shaking, and BU had the lead back, 42-40.
That was the last time the Terriers registered a point in the contest, scoring only one basket in the final 6:02, and only four points in the last eight minutes of the game. A media timeout at 1:30 gave the Hawks time to set their play, and with 1:01 left, Junior Amous hit a shot to tie the game.
When BU got the ball back, a three-point attempt by sophomore forward Ryan Butt sailed wide, and Ryan Stys grabbed the rebound for Hartford. The game was still tied at 42 and the game clock read 40 seconds as the Hawks brought the ball up the court. They used nearly all of the 35-second clock, as Deon Saunders waited to shoot until the shot clock ran down to five before nailing a jumper to give Hartford the lead, 44-42, with just seven ticks remaining.
In a last effort to tie the game, Carr drove the length of the court and put up a leaner in the lane, but the shot bounced away and Hartford got the rebound as time expired, handing the Terriers their first loss in seven games.
“I thought our guys worked pretty hard,” Wolff said. “Obviously, this was not a pretty game, and we were running uphill the entire game.”
Pierre Johnson and Saunders led the Hawks with 12 points each. Saunders also had a game-high nine rebounds.
“BU was picked by everyone in the preseason to be the number one team in the conference,” Harrison said. “Our guys rose to the challenge tonight.”