After a slow offensive start to the year, the Boston University men’s basketball team seemed to find its groove by leaning on their own “Big Three.”
Senior forward Max Mahoney, junior guard Javante McCoy and sophomore guard Walter Whyte combined for 59 points to lead the Terriers (2-2) over the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (2-2), 84-70.
Mahoney and McCoy both scored a season-high 20 points, while Whyte contributed 19 points to continue his torrid start to the season since returning from an ankle injury last season.
McCoy played a career-high 37 minutes in regulation, but said the number of minutes he plays is irrelevant.
“Any competitor wants to be on the court and I can’t let my minutes affect how I act, whether I played 37 or anything less, I’ve got to be the same person,” McCoy said. “There’s going to be nights where I’m not shooting well and I’m not going to play as much, and I think from the bench, I have to bring the same energy.”
BU scored 50 of its 84 points attacking the paint and taking high percentage shots, as shown by the Terriers’ 54.4 percent field goal percentage.
BU head coach Joe Jones said the team’s offensive performance was indicative of how he wants the team to run the offense, using the “big three” to facilitate scoring through the other players on the floor.
“We want to play through Max, Javante, and Walt, we’d like to play through those guys and then we have other guys that can hurt you,” Jones said. “We have other guys that do things very well, if we can get those three guys going, then it helps those other guys.”
Despite scoring 84 points by the end of the game, BU could not get its offense going early. In the first two minutes the Terriers missed three shots from the field and two free throws before Whyte made a three as the shot clock expired.
The Terriers jumped out to a 20-14 lead before the media timeout with eight minutes left in the half swung the momentum over to the Wildcats who scored six points straight to tie the game at 20.
Both teams traded blows for the last five minutes of the half. The biggest lead at any point in this five minute period was one point and the Wildcats briefly took the lead for the first time since the 19:30 mark to start the game.
With 55 seconds left in the half, Jones called a timeout to slow things down, leading to a layup off the inbound pass by Mahoney to give the Terriers a 34-32 edge. Mahoney went on to convert two free throws after a strong defensive play by McCoy to give BU a 36-32 lead at the break.
Mahoney led all scorers at the half with 12 points, while Wildcat freshman Blondeau Tchoukuiengo led UNH with 10 points at the break.
One minute into the second half, Wildcat senior forward Luke Rosinski started reaching at his upper right leg after fighting for a rebound. He exited the game with seven rebounds and six points.
After Rosinski, who stands at six-foot-eight, exited the game, the Terriers took advantage of his absence in the paint. Mahoney slammed down a put-back dunk to give BU its largest lead of the game at 44-33.
From the 17 minute mark on, BU began to exert its will on the Wildcats. The Terriers jumped out to a 56-38 lead following a 12-5 run over those next three minutes.
With 6:32 left in the game, Wildcat sophomore forward Jayden Martinez converted an and-one layup to make it a nine point game at 69-60.
The pace of the game accelerated after Martinez’s bucket with both teams unleashing a flurry of shots. UNH and BU combined for 14 points in just under three minutes to make the score 76-65 with four minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats kept trying to chip away at the Terriers’ lead, but the offensive trio of Mahoney, Whyte and McCoy was too much for UNH to handle. BU put UNH away 84-70.
The Terriers start the Cancun Challenge this week and will face stiff high-major competition at the University of South Carolina and then against legendary coach Bob Huggins and the University of West Virginia.
Jones said the talent of his players will allow them to make shots, but playing high-major teams is more about getting into the flow of offense.
“We played the way we wanted to play [against UNH], which is a start … they got into a flow. Sometimes you have to get into the flow differently depending on what the defense is giving you,” Jones said. “They have a feel for it, now it’s going to be harder to play with a flow, but you know what it feels like, but it’s going to be different because they’re not going to let you make every pass.”