The Boston University Men’s basketball team enters the second half of its season with heavy optimism, despite hitting a recent skid since Thanksgiving. The Terriers (5-7) began the season with promise as they rattled off wins in four of their first five contests.
BU’s biggest win came in their home opener as the Terriers bested rival Northeastern 65-63 in the first game of the Steve Wright Classic. Junior guard Cedric Hankerson hit a layup with under five seconds to go to give BU the lead before forward Nick Havener preserved the win with a game-ending block.
Following that point, the Terriers rattled off three more wins in a row, including a contest against the University of Maine where BU tallied 100 points for the first time since 1994.
In that early stretch of success, Hankerson began to find his groove as a shooter, becoming one of the Terriers’ most premier offensive pieces. In BU’s 17-point win over LIU Brooklyn, Hankerson rattled off five consecutive three-pointers to stave off a second half rally by the Blackbirds.
“He had great energy, he was driving the ball, he looked more like he did in his first two years here and that set the table,” said coach Jones after Hankerson’s explosive second half against LIU Brooklyn.
Hankerson has been one of the brightest spots for the Terriers this season. Missing all but one game last season after suffering a knee injury, the redshirt junior has returned and has come into his own this year. Thus far, Hankerson is averaging 12.1 points per game, including a career-high 34 at Syracuse on December 10. In the Terriers last home game of 2016, Hankerson hit what proved to be the winning shot when he drained a three-pointer with 1:12 to go to put the Terriers up for good over the University of .
However, the Terriers hot start cooled quickly as they entered a recent tailspin over their most recent stretch of games. Beginning with a 13-point road loss to Saint Peter’s on November 28, BU has dropped six of their last seven, including a five-game losing streak that spanned from that late November contest to December 18, when Hankerson and the Terriers upended UNH.
Despite the recent rough patch, the horizon is bright for the Terriers, who are set to begin conference play this weekend when they host reigning Patriot League Champion Holy Cross on Friday night. In yet another installment of the Turnpike Trophy, BU will look to take what they’ve learned from tough losses and turn it into quality wins over conference opponents.
“I think it’s going to be valuable,” said Jones of his team’s tough non-conference schedule. “These are some great experiences that we’re having. I just hope that we can learn from these tough nights that we’re having. And if we’re learning and we’re getting something out of the experience then it’s beneficial, if we’re not then it’s not really going to make a difference.
This season, BU has had to face perennial tournament teams in Syracuse, the University of Connecticut, and North Carolina State. While they’ve dropped all three marquee matchups, the Terriers will benefit heavily from those contests when they gear up for their upcoming stretch of Patriot League play.
While Hankerson’s performances has come in addition to strong play by starters Eric Fanning, Justin Alston, and Cheddi Mosely, freshman Tyler Scanlon has also been a threat for BU in the first half of the season. Complimenting Havener, the freshman forward provides another big frame on the defensive side of the court for the Terriers. The six-foot-seven Scanlon is currently averaging 3.6 rebounds per game, with his best performance coming against NC State where he collected nine total boards.
Scanlon has also proven he can provide a scoring touch for BU, averaging 7.3 points per game in his young career as a Terrier. Amassing a career-high 15 points against both Maine and NC State, Scanlon has scored in every contest he’s played in.
“Just watching him in high school, it doesn’t surprise me what he’s doing,” said Jones of the 18-year old. “Tyler gives us a guy on the outside as a forward that can really shoot the ball. He’s a good passer, [and] his skill set is very good.”
With 18 games remaining in the regular season for BU, the Terriers will look to return to their winning ways by playing sound basketball on both offense and defense. Coach Jones has stressed after seemingly every game this season how the Terriers need to play consistently in order to play their best basketball.
With offensive explosions against the likes of Maine, Western New England University, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell exemplify BU’s lethal ability to score. And defensive battles against UConn and Northeastern prove that if the Terriers are clicking on both sides of the ball that they have the capacity to win and win convincingly going forward.