By: Matt Doherty
Fueled by a relentless-defensive attack and a total team-effort, Boston University defeated Loyola Maryland, 78-61, Saturday afternoon at Case Gym to stay in second place in the Patriot League standings with just four games remaining.
Senior guard Eric Fanning led the charge scoring a game-high 23 points while connecting on 11 of 12 attempts from the foul line. However, it was the defensive effort from the Terriers that propelled them to the victory as they recorded 14 steals and a season-high 6 blocks.
“I thought overall we were pretty good defensively,” Terrier Coach Joe Jones said. “Our press really ignited us.”
The Terriers implemented their three-quarters court press that helped force 20 Loyola turnovers and hold them to 40% shooting from the field. Freshman Tyler Scanlon recorded a career-high five steals while Fanning and Kyle Foreman each had three respectively.
After losing to the Greyhounds back in mid-January, in a game where guard Andre Walker scored 33 points and knocked down nine three-pointers, Jones emphasized the importance of slowing down Walker and the Loyola offense.
“He torched us last time,” Jones said. “But I think we did a good job on him. It’s hard to lose a game where you force 20 turnovers.”
Walker did chip in 16 points but the Terrier defense limited him to just a 1-5 3FG mark while also forcing him to turn the ball over five times.
Offensively, senior forward Justin Alston and Foreman, joined Fanning in the double-digit scoring column. Alston recorded 17 points on 6-10 FG highlighted by a few transition slams off of BU steals. The Terriers outscored the Greyhounds 11-2 on fast break and 20-17 off turnovers.
Scanlon also chipped in nine points on a trio three-pointers and junior point guard Eric Johnson, who made his second consecutive start, scored six points on two triples. Overall, Jones was pleased with the balance and contributions from his team.
“We had three guys in double figures and another one with nine,” Jones said. “When our guys play up to their capabilities, I think we have the best bench in the league.”
The Terriers came out with high intensity but six early turnovers kept Loyola in the game. In the second half, BU dominated opening up a 14-point lead. However, when a Greyhound run cut the lead to six, the Terriers went on an 8-0 run of their own led by Fanning to push the lead back to double-digits.
“He’s [Fanning] getting to be more of a complete player,” Jones said. “When he’s playing his game there’s no better offensive player in the league.”
The win marked their fifth in the last six games for the Terriers, and their third in a row. It’s the third win streak of three or more games on the season for BU.
During their last win streak, five in a row to start league play, Jones said his team was too reliant from three point range. Now he’s emphasized the importance of contributing more to the game than just scoring.
No one has responded better to Jones’ challenge than junior guard Cedric Hankerson. Hankerson, whose shot has been cold for a lengthy stretch now, scored just four points Saturday but added four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
“He’s been great,” Jones said. “We don’t win games without Cedric Hankerson on the court. I appreciate how hard he’s played and he’s not worried about anything other than helping us win. That’s why I love that kid.”
The intensity, effort, and attention detail by players like Hankerson, Scanlon, and Foreman on the defensive end have helped this team in their latest hot stretch.
Now, it’s about continuing the recent run, something the Terriers have been unable told o so far this season. With just four games remaining in league play and three of them coming on the road, Saturday’s win was big for Jones’ squad to keep pace with Navy for second place.
The Terriers grueling four game stretch begins with a trip to Colgate on Wednesday, followed by a home game against league-leading Bucknell and then back-to-back road games against Army and Holy Cross to cap off the regular season.
For now though, BU is enjoying their most recent hot streak at the right time, with the Patriot League Tournament right around the corner.