By: Matthew Doherty
BOSTON— Boston University Head Coach Joe Jones knew the challenges that the Albany Great Danes would present to his young and inexperienced team. Albany returned it’s top five scorers from a team that was minutes away from the NCAA Tournament last March. Meanwhile, BU lost their starting point guard as well as their top two scorers from last year’s team.
On Monday night at Case Gym, Albany, the 18th ranked team in the mid-major poll, overcame a two-point halftime deficit to beat Jones’ Terriers 88-74, and hand BU its second-straight loss to start the season.
BU ran into trouble with two integral big men; forward Max Mahoney sat out with a virus and fellow big-man Nick Havener fouled out. That allowed the Great Danes to take advantage of the Terriers depleted front court, as they out-rebounded BU by 11 and scored 56 points in the paint.
“They dominated us,” Jones said. “We played for about 22 minutes tonight and then they did whatever they wanted. They got the ball inside, they turned the corner, they scored in transition. We never really stopped them. We didn’t have an answer tonight.”
BU led 40-38 at halftime, but the Danes went on an 18-7 run to begin the second half.
Junior point guard David Nichols scored 14 second half points and Albany continued to dominate inside all night long. The Terriers made a couple of flurries midway through the half to cut the lead to six but could not get any closer as the Danes made winning plays down the stretch, led by their star Nichols.
“I thought David [Nichols] played like a veteran player,” Jones said. “I thought he played great in the second half. I thought we did a decent job on him in the first half but in the second half he killed us. His ability to get in the lane was huge.”
Jones said his team showed flashes of potential but they they need to put the pressure on their opponents for all 40 minutes, not just half of the game.
“We just couldn’t sustain it,” Jones said. “You have to play much harder than that on both ends of the floor. I thought tonight we were able to show some things and now can we sustain it? I think we can get to [Albany’s] level but can we sustain it with intelligence and toughness? Tonight we couldn’t.”
For the second game in a row, BU battled foul trouble, leading Albany to shoot 18 more free throws than the Terriers. Senior guard Cedric Hankerson picked up two early fouls, which limited him to just five minutes of play in the first half. Havener, who scored a career high 19 points – including 15 in the first half – fouled out with five minutes to go for the second consecutive game.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Havener said. ‘It’s something I’m certainly working on. It’s all about playing smart and knowing the situation. I just don’t think that I played intellectually.”
Havener was the star of the show in the first half, making his first six shots of the evening, and dominating on the offensive end. The senior also blocked three shots. But, in the second half, Albany began to adjust to Havener on defense, and attack he and his fellow forwards on offense as the Danes shot 61 percent from the floor in the second stanza.
Albany big men Travis Charles, Greig Stire and Alex Foster combined for 38 points and 16 rebounds.
“I think we just need to put more pressure on guys,” Havener said. “We need to be more mentally in-tune to what coach is asking us to do. We can’t have these four to six minute lapses where guys are doing their own things, and have guys blow right by us with no help.”
The Terriers certainly showed improvement on offense after scoring just 59 points against Northeastern in the season opener Friday. After shooting 53 percent in the first half though, they shot 37 percent in the second, and finished the game 8-of-27 from 3-point range.
Outside of Havener’s team-high 19, freshman Javante McCoy scored 15 points and sophomore wing Destin Barnes added 10 tallies.
BU looked much more comfortable in offensive sets and ball movement, and while the offense can still use more fine tuning, the problem Monday night came on the defensive end.
Jones’ team is now 0-2 for the first time since the 2012-2013 season. He hopes Monday’s loss against a quality opponent is something his team can learn from.
“We get picked second in the league after losing our starting point guard and our two best players and we think we’re good,” Jones said. “These guys got their whole team back from last year. We’re not the same team. We have to grow and it’s going to take us time.
“Hopefully guys will start to understand that we’ve got work to do. We can be good. We’ve shown flashes. Now we have to sustain it. That’s the key now.”
Up Next: The road will not get any easier for the Terriers as they take on the University Connecticut on Sunday evening in Hartford. Tip-off from the XL Center is scheduled for 6 p.m.