By: Matt Doherty
BOSTON — With three games remaining on the schedule, Boston University minimized the likelihood of finishing second in the Patriot League and continued their recent tailspin in a 60-56 loss. The defeat came Wednesday night in the nation’s capital to last-place American University.
The defeat marked the fourth in a row for the Terriers, who, in two weeks, went from sitting comfortably in second place to a tie for fourth place with surging Lehigh.
BU was once 5-1 and more recently 8-3 in the Patriot League. Now, they enter a Saturday matinee showdown with second-place Navy looking to avoid a .500 record in league play. Things have changed quickly on Commonwealth Ave.
The Terriers trailed for the majority of the game against AU on Wednesday, but when senior forward Nick Havener connected on a turnaround jumper with under four minutes left to give the visitors a 55-53 lead, it felt like BU would snap the losing streak. However, the Havener bucket was the last field goal the Terriers would make, and AU ended the game on a 7-1 run to complete the season sweep.
The loss overshadowed another dominant performance from sophomore forward Max Mahoney, who tallied 25 points and eight rebounds, and looked unstoppable in the paint all evening long.
Instead of continuously feeding Mahoney, who went 10-of-14 from the field, BU settled for the 3-ball. They shot a season worse 14 percent (2-of-14) from behind the arc, and Mahoney did not attempt a shot in the final 5:44 of the contest.
The Terriers also succumbed to the slow pace of American. They took just 50 shots, and were held to their third lowest scoring output of the season. And the Achilles’ Heel of the non-conference schedule, free throws, remerged. BU went 11-of-21 from the charity stripe.
Second place Colgate fell Wednesday at home to Lehigh, which opened up a chance for BU to climb into a three-way tie for second place with the Raiders and Navy, if BU knocked off American.
Although the season is winding down and the losses keep coming, the Terriers can still keep their hopes alive for a top-three position, thanks to the parity in the league outside of Bucknell and American.
Now, BU waits on the return of freshman wing Walter Whyte to add a third scoring threat alongside Mahoney and Cedric Hankerson. Whyte has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and the Terriers have played all four games during the losing streak with eight scholarship players. The injuries are a major factor right now. But the schedule isn’t forgiving. BU welcomes the 9-6 Mids to Case Gym on Saturday.
If the rough stretch continues, Joe Jones and his team could find themselves in fifth or sixth place entering the conference tournament. That would mean a road game in the quarterfinals, and, if they advance, a daunting task in the semifinals against league champion Bucknell at Sojka Pavilion.
On the flip side, a strong finish could relinquish the current skid. If the Terriers win out, a second or third place finish is likely. A victory Saturday would go a long way not only from a confidence standpoint, but for the standings.
Even after the loss at American, the season can go in any direction. A comeback is still possible for BU, but the chances to turn things around are running out.