BU Men’s Basketball 75, Lehigh 61
By: Matt Doherty
In an early season showdown between preseason Patriot League favorites, Boston University held off the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 75-61, Monday afternoon at Case Gym to start conference play 2-0 for the first time since 2014.
BU (7-7, 2-0 PL) kicked off the New Year with a daunting date against the league favorites. but the Terriers used a total team effort to best the visitors and two-time Patriot League Player of the Year, Tim Kempton.
The Terriers had four players in double digits with fifth-year senior Justin Alston scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds to lead the home team. Eric Fanning chipped in 11 points and freshman Tyler Scanlon and Max Mahoney both contributed 10 points in the win.
However, it was the Terriers defensive presence and ability to control the glass that propelled them to the victory. BU out rebounded Lehigh 41-39 and outscored them in the paint 22-18.
“We played hard and did a good job of understanding what we needed to do to win,” said head coach Joe Jones.
Jones emphasized the importance of slowing down Kempton, a member of the Kareem Abdul-Jabaar watch list for the nation’s best center, and to force him into uncomfortable situations by using a 2-3 zone.
“He got most of his baskets on jump shots,” Jones said. “They just couldn’t go to him on the block like they do, so they had to generate different shots and that’s what our defense did.”
The Terrier defense limited Kempton to just 16 points and 8 rebounds, below his 21 ppg and 10 rpg average. The tenacious defensive effort also led to 17 Mountain Hawks turnovers and forced guards Kahron Ross, Kyle Leufroy, and Austin Price to carry the scoring load instead of Kempton. Ross scored 16 points but both Price and Leufroy struggled as they scored a combined 18 points on 6-22 FG shooting.
Unlike Lehigh, the Terrier depth shined in the game as they outscored Lehigh’s bench 26-7. Mahoney and junior forward Nick Havener provided a huge boost of the bench combining for 18 points and eight rebounds and contributing loads of energy down low.
“I embrace being the energy guy off the bench and doing whatever it takes on the floor,” Mahoney said.
After missing 7 games due to injury, Mahoney has stepped up providing a spark off the bench seemingly every time he takes the floor. With Fanning battling foul trouble, junior guard Will Goff also stepped up as he played 22 minutes scoring four points, recording four rebounds, and adding a pair of steals.
After the disappointing loss to UMass-Lowell on Dec. 21, Jones emphasized more effort from his players and challenging them to impact the game in other ways than just scoring. Whether that was Eric Fanning rebounding, a total team defensive effort, or not trying to outscore everyone, Jones sees his team turning a corner.
“Our identity is changing into what I want it to be,” Jones said. “That’s blue-collar, hard-working, effort, playing for each other, not worrying about whether you’re scoring, and doing what it takes to win.
“We have a more defensive and effort mindset,” Jones said. “If we’re able to play hard and play unselfishly, its takes precedent over the results, and that’s what’s changed right now.”
The Terriers have now rattled off consecutive Patriot League wins to begin conference play against top-class teams Holy Cross and Lehigh. Jones and his Terriers look to carry the momentum into Thursday night when they travel to Annapolis to take on the Navy Midshipmen. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.