By: Greg Levinsky
HARTFORD, CONN. – Head Coach Joe Jones and the Boston University men’s basketball team are still searching for their first win of the 2017-2018 slate following a 85-66 loss at the hands of the University of Connecticut. With the defeat, the Terriers dropped to 0-3 on the season.
“I thought they outplayed us in every facet of the game,” Jones said on Sunday night.
Senior guard Cedric Hankerson paced the Terriers with 20 points and 5 rebounds, while classmate Nick Havener chipped in 16 points and 10 boards on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
On the other side of the floor, sophomore Christian Vital netted 30 points for the Huskies, leading a group of four in double figures. Junior guard Jalen Adams added 12, while graduate student Antwoine Anderson and redshirt-sophomore Terry Larrier netted 11 points apiece.
“Larrier really helps them because he can make a shot at the four position,” Jones said. “Defensively they can switch some stuff with him.”
The Terriers stormed to an 8-1 lead early, but surrendered their control midway through the first half. A zone defense worked early on, but, after the opening 10 minutes, neither zone nor man defense stopped the surging Huskies.
Vital made the most of his minutes for UConn, collecting 17 first-half points in just 12 minutes of play en route to a career-high 30 points. Vital connected on six-of-nine field goals and added three rebounds before the half.
“I thought [Vital] did a great job,” said Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie. “He was amazing out there tonight and I’m very proud of him.”
“He was able to get to the basket and able to make foul shots, and that really hurt us,” Jones said. “I told them someone was going to get hot.”
Terrier senior Nick Havener continued his torrid stretch in his senior campaign. The feisty forward collected nine first-half points, including his first three-pointer since his sophomore season. Havener added a 15-foot jumper from the right elbow for his final bucket in the first half, demonstrating a seemingly game-by-game expansion of his offensive arsenal.
“He’s showing progress, he’s playing very good at the offensive end,” Jones said. “We just have to learn how to have some patience and poise.”
Defensively, the Huskies could not be contained by the Terrier 2-3 zone. Connecticut battled back after missing its first nine shots by connecting on eight-of-nine to foster a 39-31 halftime lead.
The deficit grew to as much as 22 for the Terriers, thanks to UConn’s relentless rebounding effort. The Huskies out-rebounded the Terriers 27-12 in the second half with five players recording at least five rebounds.
“We just have a hard time maintaining any level of consistency,” Jones said. “We just don’t have enough fight, and it showed tonight.”
Wiry six-foot-eight swingmen and redshirt-junior Terry Larrier combined his own prowess with sophomore Ryan Polley’s athleticism and patience to help the Huskies to their advantage. Midway through the second half, the duo converted consecutive tip-ins off their own missed shots.
Hankerson found his touch for the Terriers late in the second half, converting three straight triples. Sophomore Tyler Scanlon became the third Terrier to reach double figures with 12 points, adding 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
Free-throws plagued the Terriers once again, as they went just 10-for-21 from the charity stripe, including 5-for-12 in the second half. Contrastingly, Connecticut went 7-for-8 in the second half and 13-for-20 overall from the free throw line.
“We shot 47 percent from the free throw line, we’ve got to be able to make free throws to keep the game within reach,” Jones said. “Once we can’t make free throws, we can’t set up our press and it’s just going to turnover.”
BU continues their road swing with a tilt at the University of Maine on Wednesday. The Black Bears are also looking for their first win of the season after starting 0-3. Tip-off from Bangor is scheduled for 2:00 PM.
“We look like a young team right now, I’m more upset at the lack of leadership in getting guys to compete,” Jones said. “We’re going to have to learn how to compete harder.”