By: David Souza
In their first Patriot League contest of the season, the Boston University Men’s Basketball team took on the Crusaders of Holy Cross in yet another installment of the Turnpike Trophy. In a matchup that featured everything from back and forth three-pointers to a defensive stand on both sides in the second half, the Terriers (6-7, 1-0 PL) prevailed 61-55 while seniors Justin Alston and Eric Fanning recorded double-doubles.
“I’m proud of the guys tonight, I thought we made great effort plays” said BU coach Joe Jones. “There were times we did some really foolish things and we didn’t sulk, we were able to still go make a play. If we turned it over or we made a poor decision on a shot, we ended up making some big plays in terms of going to get the ball.”
The Terriers outrebounded Holy Cross (6-8, 0-1 PL) by 20, collecting 47 boards to the Crusaders 27. Alston lead the way for BU with 15 total rebounds and was named Turnpike Trophy MVP. The six-foot-eight forward was especially lethal off of the defensive glass for the Terriers as Alston gathered 12 defensive boards en route to his second career double-double. The senior also scored 13 points.
“It’s great [to be named MVP], but honestly, all my hard work comes from my teammates and my coaches,” said Alston. “I just want to keep working and I just want to show everyone my work ethic and show how good my team is.”
Fanning led the Terriers in scoring with 14 and had a season-high 10 rebounds as the senior guard logged his fourth career double-double. He also had a team-high five assists in the six-point victory.
The contest began with a bout of heavy offense. Junior Cedric Hankerson opened the game for BU by rattling off three straight threes before the Crusaders responded with a 16-3 run. The Terriers, however, would not be deterred, as they clawed their way back and entered halftime with a one-point lead.
And while offense characterized the first half, the second was one of defensive stands. Both squads recorded less than 30 points in the game’s final 20 minutes as the Terriers game plan turned gritty.
“More than anything, our guys just stepped up and made some plays and didn’t give in,” said coach Jones of his defense that relinquished just 23 points in the second half. “I thought Kyle Foreman made a couple plays, I thought Eric Fanning got aggressive as the half went on and made some buckets driving the ball, it was more our guys stepping up and making plays.”
While the Terriers have often been a team that lives off of heavy three-point shooting, the sixth year head coach theorized that BU now succeeds because of their play down low. In the paint, the Terriers outscored the Crusaders 24-10.
Coach Jones further detailed how the team’s effort level in Friday night’s win was far beyond that of their loss against UMass Lowell on December 21.
Despite the Terriers heightened compete level, the Crusaders were still able to take advantage of BU’s zone defense. Robert Champion led all scorers with 18 points while center Matt Husek went four for seven from beyond the arc.
Alston and company however were able to weather the storm, capturing their first conference win of the season. Now with 2017 upon us in a few hours, the Terriers will look ahead to a schedule that features 17 straight Patriot League contests.
“Let’s just hope that this type of game can be a catalyst for who we can become,” said Coach Jones. “If that is the case then I feel really good about what the future holds. But, if we’re sitting here in February and we’re talking about ‘we’re not rebounding,’ ‘we’re not committed to playing hard,’ and we’re getting a similar effort that we got at UMass Lowell, or against Canisius, or the second half of Syracuse, it we’re still talking about having games like that then…”
Preaching a message of consistency for his players going forward, Jones will ready his troops to tackle a tough Lehigh squad Monday afternoon at Case Gym.