By: Greg Levinsky
BOSTON — When senior guard Eric Johnson re-entered the game with just over three minutes remaining in Boston University’s 72-58 win over Colgate, he found himself in a familiar situation.
With the Terriers (8-8, 4-1 Patriot League) leading by 12 with 3:08 left, Head Coach Joe Jones summoned Johnson to the scorer’s table after the Red Raiders (8-8, 3-2) employed a frantic full-court pressure defense.
“I knew we had the lead and that we had to control the pace of the game,” Johnson said. “I try to stay poised, keep my guys calm, and keep calm myself. Limiting turnovers is important because if they get the ball we’re at their mercy, but if we have the ball they’re at our mercy.”
It wasn’t the first time Jones had gone to Johnson. Whether it be a stretch run in a 90-87 victory at Bethune-Cookman – a game where Johnson sunk the game-winning 3-pointer – or as far back as the Terriers’ first win of the season, a 78-69 win at Maine, Jones said he can rely on Johnson to not make mistakes.
“He’s seen a lot of different things,” Jones said. “He’s an experienced guy and he knows whats going on. He doesn’t get flustered and doesn’t let people speed him up.
“He controls the ball.”
“Sometimes its tough because you don’t know if you’re coming in for a short period or not, but I always have that mentality of coming in and sealing the deal,” Johnson said.
Johnson accrued eight points and two rebounds in 19 minutes of play off the bench, taking the point guard reigns. He also scored the Terriers last six points on a perfect six-for-six from the charity stripe in the last 2:11 of the contest. Johnson spelled freshman starting point guard Javante McCoy (10 points, 3 rebounds) after he struggled with Colgate’s full-court pressure.
The veteran said that not only does he make sure to do the job on the court, but he makes an effort to help his younger teammates by showing them how to handle themselves when faced with the added pressure of late-game situations.
“I just try to show them by example, and when they get riled up I tell them to relax and be calm,” Johnson said. “My biggest thing I tell them is to stay calm because then everything else will take care of itself.”
Senior guard Cedric Hankerson and sophomore forward Max Mahoney paced the Terrier offense with 14 points apiece. BU jumped out to an 11-6 lead on a three by senior guard Will Goff with 12:45 remaining in the first half, and never looked back.
Colgate battled to keep the halftime score to a seven-point margin, but the Terriers foiled a tremendous effort by freshman guard Jordan Burns (18 points, 5 assists) by honing in on the defensive end. BU limited the Red Raiders to just 29.5 percent shooting for the game (18-of-61).
“It was a good game to win, we had to grind it out a little bit,” Jones said. “Just a great team win.”
After being slowed by a back injury early in the season, Johnson has settled into his role, holding modest averages of 3.3 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in his final run in the scarlet and white. The numbers don’t speak for themselves; Johnson’s value in crunch time is incalculable.
“He’s older, he understands, and he gets it,” Jones said. “The good thing about our team is that we have some guys that can do different things, and when you call upon them they step up and do it. Tonight that was him – late game, making foul shots. He put the game away.”