By: Greg Levinsky
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Senior Eric Johnson’s first big shot of the year was a doozy. With his Terriers trailing Bethune-Cookman by one with 23 seconds left, Johnson nailed a triple to will BU to victory, 90-87.
“Honestly, I just wanted to get out of there with a win and really upset the fans that were close to the court because they were talking to us individually and said some things that weren’t very nice,” Johnson said. “I felt like that was my way to get back at them, knock down some shots and give us the lead.”
Just under three miles from iconic Daytona Beach, the Boston University Terriers faced off at Bethune-Cookman University in the second half of their Sunshine State business trip.
After falling to the University of Miami Hurricanes on Tuesday night, I Head Coach Joe Jones and the Terriers traveled north up I-95 for a tilt with the Wildcats. While South Beach wasn’t so friendly, Daytona Beach brought the Terriers back to .500 (4-4) with a three-point victory.
“It was hard for us to stop them from scoring,” said Coach Jones. “It was kind of like contrasting styles, the thing we were able to do was score the ball as easily, especially in the paint. That’s what really helped us.”
“We kind of had to boost our pace a little bit,” Johnson said. “We had to adjust.”
Sophomore forward Max Mahoney continued his recent tear, scoring a career high 16 points in 18 minutes of play. The front line of Mahoney, freshman Sukhmail Mathon and senior Nick Havener shot a combined 18-of-24 from the field. BU outscored Bethune-Cookman 44-24 in the paint.
Freshmen Javante McCoy, Mathon and Havener paced the Terriers in the opening half. McCoy netted a trifecta of triples while the six-foot-ten Mathon connected on all four of his field goal attempts.
“Suk was tremendous in this game,” Jones said. “Right now per minute, Suk’s playing as well as anybody. I keep saying this, but I’ve gotta find more time for this guy because he’s been great.”
The de facto starting point guard from his first collegiate game, McCoy combines a lengthy wingspan and a dead-eye 3-point shot. Despite not always running the point in high school, McCoy handles the rock at all times. He finished with 11 points and three assists.
Havener added eight first-half points of his own and recorded his first blocked shot since the last week of November to keep the Wildcats (4-5) at bay. Havener was the first Terrier to reach double digits and wound up with a team-high 17 points.
The game was tied at 44 at intermission as Wildcat guards Brandon Tabb (12 points) and Malik Maitland (15 points) scored in double digits in the first half. Tabb was limited to just 3-of-12 from beyond the arc.
“Those guys just go get baskets. Scoring comes easy for them,” Jones said.
A junior in his first season with the Wildcats after transferring from Morehead State, Maitland was tough to defend, swiping through the Terrier defense at his five-foot-nine stature.
The Terriers rattled off a seven-to-two run to close the opening stanza, and Wildcat junior Shawntrez Davis picked up his fourth foul early in the second half. The six-foot-nine forward came into the game averaging a double-double and two blocks per contest.
With Davis riding pine until 6:11 remaining in regulation, Mahoney rattled off seven points in the first seven minutes of the half. Davis fouled out with 2:06 to go. The Terriers shot 35-of-54 from the field 64.8 percent, thanks in part to Mahoney’s 7-of-9 shooting.
“He’s all about energy,” Jones said. “We’re a different team when Max Mahoney’s playing well.”
“Boston is a team that knows how to win games,” said Bethune-Cookman Head Coach Ryan Ritter. “I thought tonight you saw some of their older guys step up and make plays.”
All five starters in Tabb (23 points), Maitland (22 points), Davis (10 points), Isaiah Bailey (21 points) and Soufiyane Diakite (10 points) scored in double figures. The Wildcats bench managed just one point.
“We just didn’t find a way to get it done,” Ritter said.
“They are as talented as most teams in our league,” Jones said. “I would say that Bailey, Davis and Tabb are All-League players in our league and then their point guard, that kid Maitland, could be All-League. They’ve got four guys that could be All-League in our conference and what they can all do is score.”
Coming off a lopsided loss to Florida Atlantic University, the Wildcats used their uptempo style to rush the depleted Terriers, who have just 11 players available. Neither side slowed down on the offensive end in the second half.
Freshman guard Walter Whyte (7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) threw down a thunderous jam with just over five minutes left to give the Terriers their largest lead with a seven point cushion. Senior guard Cedric Hankerson added 11 points in his return to his home state and Johnson contributed seven points.
“He can add so much, I just think he’s scratching the surface of what he could be,” Jones said of Whyte. “His length and size really helped us defend at times against their guards.”
“Walter’s dunk was huge. It got us very excited. It was a big boost for our team and a good moment for him. That’s one of his first dunks at the collegiate level and it’s about time he used that athleticism,” Johnson joked. “It gave us a big boost.”
Bailey had a chance to tie it, but airmailed a triple with three ticks to go.
Jones detailed the play at length, saying the first option was sophomore Tyler Scanlon. BU ran a play with Scanlon receiving an off-ball screen. The plan was to hit Hankerson if Scanlon could not get open, but Johnson ended up taking and making the shot on a broken play.
“The better he plays, the better we’re going to play. There’s no doubt about that,” Jones said.