By: Matt Doherty
The Boston University men’s basketball team completed an impressive three game sweep in the inaugural Steve Wright Classic this weekend. The Terriers used a dramatic comeback on Friday evening to knock off Northeastern before putting together back-to-back dominant performances over Maine and LIU Brooklyn on Saturday and Sunday.
After losing the season opener at Northeastern, BU has now rattled off three consecutive wins, and the team looks much improved following the frustrating loss at Matthews Arena on Nov. 11.
Here are the takeaways from the action packed weekend at Case Gym.
The Terriers come from behind win on Friday night showed toughness from the team. In front of their home crowd, BU trailed by as many as 12 points late in the second half thanks to a 9 minute field goal drought. It looked like Northeastern was going to pull out the victory but this BU team fought back, using tough defensive stands and timely baskets to win the game.
On Friday, it was the key players who made the big plays as Eric Fanning, Cheddi Mosely, and Cedric Hankerson all scored late baskets. The win showed that BU can beat a quality team in a game where everything might not go their way. It was a difficult win and a game that they would have lost a season ago. The stars showed up in a big way.
The storyline for the next two games was the depth. Coach Joe Jones used a 10-man rotation that received contributions from everyone. Kyle Foreman, Cheddi Mosely, Eric Fanning, Nick Havener, and Justin Alston rounded out the starting five with Cedric Hankerson, Tyler Scanlon, Destin Barnes, Blaise Mbargorba, and Max Mahoney serving as the second unit.
In the Maine game on Saturday, five Terriers were in double figures. Alston led the team with 16 points, Mosely scored 15 points, and Eric Fanning chipped in with 14 as well. However, it was the freshman that stood out.
Tyler Scanlon poured in an impressive 15 points going 3-5 from three point range highlighted by an emphatic dunk on a fast break steal. Scanlon’s athleticism at 6’7 was on display as he showed the ability to shoot from distance, handle the ball, and be effective on the glass. His ability to guard multiple positions and play a multitude of roles on the offensive end make him a key factor going forward.
Destin Barnes also impressed on Saturday, scoring 10 points and continuing to show that he can shoot. Through four games, Barnes is averaging 6.5 PPG on 60% shooting from behind the arc. At 6’6 he creates mismatches and helps spacing because of his ability to shoot from long range.
Perhaps the most surprising contributor on Saturday though was Max Mahoney. The freshman, who played sparingly in the first two games, gave Jones 13 effective minutes where he scored 5 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Mahoney served as a spark and replacement for Nick Havener.
The 102-78 win over Maine was the first time BU hit the century mark since 1994. But the fact that the Terriers were able to score 102 points with only 18 combined points from their two best scorers, Fanning and Hankerson, showed that this team has many offensive weapons, a luxury for Jones.
On Sunday, it was more of the same for BU. Facing a 3-0 LIU Brooklyn team that knocked off Northeastern the night before, the Terriers delivered another complete performance on their way to a 86-69 win. It was another team effort with four Terriers in double digits. Hankerson scored 19 while Havener, Fanning, and Mosely all had 13 points.
Once again it showed that Fanning and Hankerson don’t have to do it all. Scanlon scored 6 points, hitting two more 3 pointers, and also snatched 8 rebounds. Havener grabbed 12 rebounds and the Terriers had 20 assists as a team. Kyle Foreman played his best game of the season at point guard. Foreman had 6 assists and did a great job of running the offense. When Foreman creates and penetrates, the offense enters another level.
Sunday was also a great sign for Hankerson. After struggling mightily with his shot in the first three games, Hankerson finally got going in the second half. Reminiscent of his 2015 self where he shot 40% from three, Hankerson nailed a ridiculous five consecutive three pointers to finally break out his slump. With Hankerson, Mosely, Scanlon, and Barnes all connecting from downtown, the offense becomes hard to guard.
After being out rebounded Saturday vs. Maine, Jones was upset with the effort on the glass. The Terriers responded on Sunday with a 41-35 advantage on the boards.
Overall though, the highlight of the weekend was the offense, which was clicking on all cylinders. With Foreman running the point effectively, BU can spread it out with Mosely on one wing and Fanning on the other. Receiving ball screens from Alston and Havener, Foreman can either attack the basket and find the roller or kick out to Mosely and Fanning on the wing.
Mosely can knock down the triple and Fanning can drive to the basket where he is virtually unstoppable. When the second unit comes in, the Terriers offense becomes even more dangerous. Hankerson, Scanlon, Barnes can all play on the wing and knock down shots, while Mbargorba sets screens for whoever is running the point guard.
At times, BU can have up to four legitimate three point shooters on the floor at once. An intriguing lineup is Mosely, Hankerson, Fanning, Scanlon, and a big man. The four combo guards/forwards are all scoring threats from inside and out.
The Steve Wright Classic showed that this team is diverse on the offensive end. With so many wing players that also have size, the offense has a chance to be deadly. If BU continues to improve on the defensive end, specifically on the perimeter, as well as on the glass, the offense and depth will do the rest.
An impressive weekend portrayed just how good this team can be down the road.