It’s not often that a team has its top two scorers notch 10 points below their average, shoot a combined 22 percent and still win the game. Yet this was the case for the Boston University men’s basketball team, which managed to pull off a 55-43 victory Wednesday against Yale University at Case Gymnasium due to stingy defense of its own.
‘I think we showed the right amount on the defensive end to win the game, and it was really the first time all year that I’ve seen it,’ BU coach Dennis Wolff said. ‘We got stops, we fought for loose balls. I’m very happy with what we did defensively.’
The Terriers had their most solid defensive performance when they needed it most. Junior guard Corey Lowe managed only 12 points, while sophomore forward John Holland netted just seven on the night. The players went into the game averaging 20.3 and 17.9, respectively.
Struggling scorers aside, defense was the focal point of practice all week after allowing 80 points or more for the first time since last Saturday against Marshall University. This emphasis was reflected in the Terriers’ improved play down the court.
‘They challenged us to man up. We were getting pushed around and so we gained rebounds and we were able to gut it out,’ senior forward Matt Wolff said. ‘We always try to bring intensity defensively, and they got to us this week in practice. I think it really raised our level of play on the defensive end.’
The statistics tell the tale of two halves. Overall, the Bulldogs were held to 39 percent shooting and just 30 percent on 3s. But in the first half Yale shot a respectable 44.8 percent on 13-for-29 shooting, good enough to tie up the score at 28 by the first buzzer.
But the spark that reversed the Terriers’ fortunes on the defensive end and altered the game was a switch discussed in the locker room at halftime.
‘What we talked about doing from a technical standpoint in the first half was flexing and coming down off the perimeter plays, and we didn’t do a good enough job with that,’ Wolff said. ‘They had too much space and too much time. So we went back to going big on big, and it caused confusion for them in the second half.’
Doubling the post limited the visiting team to a mere 15 points on just 21.7 percent shooting in the second frame, including a stretch of more than 11 minutes without a field goal. This marked the fewest points allowed by the Terriers in a half this year and the fewest total (43) they’ve allowed in two seasons.
The main victim of the revamped Terrier defense was Yale junior Alex Zampier. The guard went into the game as the Bulldogs’ scoring leader, averaging 16.7 points per game and tallying 28 and 25 in his last two contests. Against the Terriers, he was held to five points on 2-for-14 shooting, including 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.
‘I thought he had some shot opportunities that he normally would convert that he missed,’ Yale coach James Jones said. ‘Certainly when you’re a guy going into the game averaging 16 points, just like Corey Lowe is for us, he’s on their board. You cut off the head, the beast dies.’