By: Greg Levinsky
Thursday night at Harvard University’s newly renovated Lavietes Pavilion marks the final chance for the Boston University Men’s Basketball team to collect themselves before conference play. Coming off consecutive losses to the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Elon University, Head Coach Joe Jones and the Terriers (4-6) look to celebrate the ending of the calendar year with a victory across the river.
To come out on top, Jones stressed the importance of playing with intensity and maintaining a consistently high effort from all eleven of his players.
“We’re not consistently competing at a high enough level,” Jones said. “We’re just breaking down and we’re making too many mistakes. The big thing is that we’re not competing hard enough in order to be a very good team. We’re not talented enough to have the lapses we have in our intensity.”
With a lead that crept to as much as 12 in the first half in Sunday’s 77-69 home loss against Elon, the Terriers squandered their best opportunity yet to defeat a Division I opponent in Case Gym. Behind a 15-of-33 performance from beyond the arc, Elon ruptured the hopes of the Terrier faithful en route to winning the first ever matchup between the two schools.
Sophomore forward Max Mahoney erupted for career highs in three categories, amassing 29 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in Lowell. He struggled on Sunday, scoring just one point and collecting three rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
Jones switched the starting lineup for the second consecutive game after going with the same lineup for the first eight contests. Seniors Cedric Hankerson, Nick Havener, sophomore Tyler Scanlon, and freshmen Javante McCoy and Walter Whyte started the first eight games.
“I’m not really overly concerned with who starts,” Jones said. “To be honest with you, It hasn’t mattered who I start. We start games well, that’s not our problem. It’s been the end of the first half and going into the second half, that’s when we’re struggling. We’re not getting it done so we’re allowing teams to take momentum in the second half.”
Mahoney started in place of Havener in Lowell. Havener returned to the starting five on Sunday, joined by Hankerson, senior Will Goff, Scanlon and junior Kamali Chambers. It was the first start of Chambers’ career and Goff’s fourth.
BU started out strong early against Elon, but could not overcome Elon’s outside shooting. Junior guard Steven Santa Ana paced the Phoenix with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, including five triples. All five starters recorded a 3-pointer for Elon.
Hankerson scored a season and game-high 22 points for the Terriers on 7-of-19 shooting. Before the game, he was awarded his 1,000 point ball; he is 25th on the all-time BU scoring list.
Hankerson leads the Terriers at 13.6 points per game. Mahoney is the only other BU player scoring in double figures at 10.7 per contest. Jones said he’s looking for Hankerson to do even more on both ends.
“I think Cedric Hankerson has a chance to be the best two-way player in our league,” Jones said. “There’s more to him than just scoring, and we need that from him this year.”
The Crimson (4-6) have seen the good, the bad and the ugly midway through the 2017-18 campaign. Back-to-back 73-69 losses to Holy Cross and Manhattan preceded an impressive performance (79-70 loss) at then-No.7 Kentucky.
A trio of sophomores in guard Bryce Aiken and forwards Chris Lewis and Seth Towns pace the Crimson attack. Aiken scores at 17.6 points-per-game, including four 20-plus point performances. Lewis averages 12.9 points-per-game on nearly 60 percent shooting from the floor. Towns registers 12.8 points per contest in just 24 minutes.
The Terriers and Crimson have a storied rivalry dating back over a century, with the all-time series favoring Harvard, 37-29.
Jones summed up BU’s game plan simply: for his team to be successful they must keep up their offensive prowess while ramping up the defense.
“We really need to be able to take a huge step on the defensive end in order to get ready for our league, and continue to play good offense.”