By: Greg Levinsky
With the potential to take possession of first place in the Patriot League via the tiebreaker, the Boston University men’s basketball team aims to sweep Bucknell University for the first time in their six seasons as a member of the conference.
The two teams face off Sunday at 12 p.m. at Case Gym.
“They’re a really, really talented team at this level,” Boston University Men’s Basketball Head Coach Joe Jones said. “They’ll be ready to play, but I’m more concerned to see if we’re ready for the challenge and to compete.”
The Terriers (11-9, 7-2 Patriot League) outlasted the Bison (14-8, 8-1 Patriot League), 84-79, on Jan. 2 at Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg, Penn. BU ended the preseason Patriot League favorite’s 15-game home winning streak behind 21 points by senior Cedric Hankerson,
Hankerson will miss Sunday’s game due to injury and the Terriers will certainly miss his 13.7 points-per-game. He played just five minutes in BU’s 75-68 win at Navy on Jan. 20, and missed BU’s next 75-72 victory at Lafayette on Jan. 24.
Classmate Nick Havener, who missed the first Bucknell game to injury, erupted for a career-high 21 points, and added five rebounds and two steals in just 18 minutes of play in the Lafayette win.
Jones said he’s been impressed with the leadership from his seniors all season.
“I think our seniors have been unbelievable in terms of being great teammates,” Jones said. “In order to be succesful, our seniors have been tremendous and selfless. It’s the best group that we’ve had here collectively. They’ve been wonderful and our young guys are following their lead.”
The starting lineup is made of four underclassmen: freshmen Javante McCoy and Walter Whyte, and sophomores Max Mahoney and Tyler Scanlon. Hankerson usually starts, but senior Will Goff will likely start in his place. He has started five games this year.
“They’re all young guys,” Jones said. “They’re all guys that have huge upsides. We’re seeing them develop. They’ve been able to really grow from their mistakes and experiences.”
Bucknell returned all five of their starters from the 2017 Patriot League Championship team. Seniors Nana Foulland, Zach Thomas and Stephen Brown are arguably the best players at their positions – center, forward and point guard, respectively.
Thomas leads the conference in scoring and rebounding at 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Foulland is top five in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He also leads the conference with 1.7 blocked shots per game. Brown holds averages of 13.8 points and 4.5 assists.
Jones said he knows both his team and Bucknell will make adjustments from their first meeting and it is imperative for his team to stay sharp and not rest on the previous result.
“We gotta be true to ourselves and who we are,” Jones said. “You gotta be able to move on from the first game, and know that there are gonna be some things that we were able to do that may not work as well.”