Historically, when Boston University men’s basketball coach Dennis Wolff doesn’t allow players to speak at a postgame press conference, it’s for one of three reasons.
1. The player requested is a freshman who hasn’t yet grasped the concept of what can and cannot be said at the podium.
2. The team lost a heartbreaking game and the players wouldn’t be able to provide much insight on the loss anyway.
3. The players didn’t compete with the type of effort expected of them as a member of a Wolff-coached program, and heard about it after the game.
Sunday afternoon’s 70-68 loss to the University of Delaware at Case Gymnasium – in which sophomore guard D.J. Boney connected on a game-winning 3-pointer opposite the Blue Hens’ bench with four seconds remaining in regulation – marked the final two of those three scenarios, and was punctuated when Wolff said the following.
‘It’s really the first time all year that I’ve been disappointed with our team,’ the 15-year coach said. ‘Delaware clearly deserved to win.’
Disappointed not so much because the Terriers allowed more 3-pointers than they made for the first time all season (BU converted 7-of-30 attempts from beyond the arc, while the Blue Hens hit 8-of-24) or because Boney’s trey was similar to that which the University of Notre Dame’s Ryan Ayers hit to down the Terriers in South Bend, Ind., last weekend, but rather because of BU’s grit – a constant point of emphasis for Wolff and his coaching staff.
The game provided a chance for the Terriers (5-5) to pick themselves up after a difficult Dec. 13 loss to the Fighting Irish in which they led the then-No. 12 team in the nation for roughly 34 minutes, but couldn’t pull off the victory. Had Sunday’s effort shown the same determination and aggressiveness on display against Notre Dame, the statement would have been clear – this team wants to win at all costs. But, forgetting plays out of timeouts and becoming complacent after jumping out to a large lead states the exact opposite.
‘We made some clutch plays in the last minute that put us in a position, but we didn’t have the same life that we’ve had in the other games,’ Wolff said. ‘We didn’t have the right focus on offense and we just didn’t look, to me, like a team that’s played pretty good basketball for most of the first semester.’
In the final minute, the Terriers regained a lead that had once been as many as 12 points (with 11:20 remaining in the first half) but that the Blue Hens (5-6) held for the majority of the second half. The Terriers trailed by eight with 3:44 remaining, but freshman forward Jake O’Brien hit a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to draw BU within one.
Following a miss on the front end of a 1-and-1 by Delaware senior guard Jawan Carter, the Terriers took the lead when a 3-point attempt by sophomore forward John Holland was off the mark but senior forward Matt Wolff got fouled under the basket by Blue Hen senior forward Jim Ledsome (4 points, 6 rebounds). Wolff converted both free throws, putting the Terriers up, 68-67, and setting the stage for Boney’s heroics.
After Boney’s make, the Terriers had four seconds to work with, but junior guard Corey Lowe got caught at center court attempting to run the floor and Boney (who recovered from four consecutive missed foul shots in the first half) ended up with a steal to seal the victory.
‘We wanted Jawan Carter [16 points, 9 assists] to get into the lane because we knew that he was going to draw some help and I told him, ‘Be ready to kick the ball if you don’t have a layup or a shot yourself,” UD coach Mont’eacute; Ross said of the final play. ‘D.J. had his hands and feet ready to catch and shoot and he knocked it down.’
Amidst the negatives involved with BU losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, the play of Wolff was a bright spot. The co-captain recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, no points more important than his final two shots from the charity stripe.
‘I thought he played real hard,’ Dennis Wolff said. ‘But in order for us to win, we need to have everyone playing with the utmost intensity.’
The Terriers were intense to start the second half, as they ran an alley-oop play to Holland, who logged two minutes in the first frame after picking up his second foul. Lowe (team-high 20 points) lobbed the ball perfectly to Holland, who threw it down with both hands from the right side of the rim.
Holland (11 points, 1 rebound) added a right-handed tomahawk dunk later in the second half, but despite the offensive flashiness, Sunday marked the second game this season in which the 6-foot-5 forward failed to grab a single defensive rebound. O’Brien (14 points, 7 rebounds) also entertained the sparse crowd (324) with his second career collegiate dunk – a two-handed slam after a power step through the lane.
It was following O’Brien’s dunk that one of the prime examples of Wolff’s frustration was accentuated. In a timeout just before, Wolff told his team to continue pressing the Blue Hens on their inbounds pass, but nobody stayed up on defense, causing Wolff to become livid along the sideline.
‘You can only say certain things in a timeout and I can say them over and over and over, then you’ve got two guys saying, ‘What’d he just say?” Wolff said. ‘Sometimes that happens with college kids, but not with a team that aspires to have a good season.’
In the second half, the Terriers were bothered by UD’s perimeter defense and weren’t making the proper adjustments necessary to get open.
‘We really tried to limit their 3s,’ Ross said. ‘We held them to three 3s in the second half. That was really big for us because they’re such a dynamic 3-point shooting team.’
Although on most nights BU lives and dies on the 3-point shot, the Terriers scored 30 points in the paint Sunday. While it certainly would have helped to make more than 23 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, it was once again a lack of winning mentality that hurt BU most.
‘There are going to be nights where you might not shoot the ball. I can live with that,’ Wolff said. ‘But our whole focus was not right. I’m responsible for that and that’s not how I would like a team here to play.
‘I’d like to somehow find a silver lining in this right now, but I can’t.’
Game notes: Sophomore guard Alphonso Dawson led all Blue Hen scorers with 20 points, while senior guard Marc Egerson (averaging a double-double coming into the game) was held to five points and five rebounds. ‘hellip; Boney’s 14 points were a career high. ‘hellip; The Terriers outrebounded the Blue Hens, 40-33. ‘hellip; UD’s plane was delayed Saturday night by three hours due to snow showers in Boston. ‘hellip; Prior to the start of the game, Lowe was honored for scoring his 1,000th point against Notre Dame. He was joined at center court by his mother Adrienne, father Darryl, brother Tory and Dennis Wolff. ‘hellip; The loss marked BU’s first at The Roof this season and its first since Jan. 22 of last season – a streak of six games. ‘hellip; Freshman forward Jeff Pelage was in dress clothes for the first time this season, as his flu-like symptoms and nagging cough have not improved.