By: Greg Levinsky
Sophomore Max Mahoney has struggled from the free-throw line throughout his first two seasons at Boston University, shooting only 50.7 percent from the charity stripe.
Before the Terriers first game of the season, Mahoney said he worked on his mental approach towards free-throw shooting.
The work has certainly paid off.
Through 30 games this season, Mahoney is shooting nearly 70 percent from the free-throw line when attempting six or more per contest.
And in the Terriers’ 88-82 win at Lehigh on Thursday night, Mahoney was sensational from the stripe, converting 9-of-10 free throws, including his first eight in a row.
BU will play at first-seeded Bucknell Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Patriot League semifinals.
“We actually went to Max two days ago and met with him and basically said that he’s gotta just give us more,” BU Head Coach Joe Jones said. “As well as he was playing, he was conserving his energy at times and playing like a good offensive player, but not doing enough.
“Tonight he took his game to another level. He was sensational.”
Mahoney erupted for 27 points as the fifth-seeded Terriers (15-15, 11-9 Patriot League) ended the fourth-seeded Mountain Hawks’ (16-14, 11-8 Patriot League) eight-game winning streak.
One issue that plagued the Terriers in the early part of the year was free-throw shooting.
During the opening weeks of the season, the Terriers were last in the country – 351st out of 351 Division 1 teams – in free-throw shooting percentage. Jones was adamant his team’s performance didn’t warrant panic, claiming the Terriers were better from the free-throw line than the numbers showed.
Turns out he was right.
In Patriot League play, BU is shooting over 70 percent from the free-throw line. Not once have the Terriers lost a game from missing too many free throws. In fact, their effectiveness from the line has been a solid tenet of the Terrier offense.
Mahoney’s dominating night started 1:20 into the game.
After falling behind 2-0 on a bucket by Lehigh sophomore forward Pat Andree (15 points), Mahoney scored his first hoop 59 seconds later. The Terriers never trailed again.
“Coming into this game I know it was playoff time, had to be a different mentality. Stepped up to the plate and get things done,” Mahoney said.
Both sides traded blows prior to halftime, with BU earning a 33-30 lead. The Terriers went on a 6-0 spurt to start the second half thanks to scores by Mahoney and a pair of free throws by freshman Javante McCoy.
BU stretched its advantage to as much as 20, after a 3-pointer by McCoy with 7:29 left gave the Terriers a 69-49 lead. Lehigh came roaring back when senior guard Kahron Ross (17 points, 4 steals) connected on a pair of 3-pointers to cut the Terrier lead to 82-76 with 46 seconds to play.
McCoy and Lehigh senior Lance Tejada each nailed a pair of free throws, and Terrier freshman guard Walter Whyte made one of two. Lehigh sophomore guard Jordan Cohen (17 points) then scored to make it 85-80 with 30 seconds left, but the Terriers held on, as the teams combined for 107 second-half points.
“We were just hoping that we caught them on a cold night and we just caught them at the right time,” Jones said.
Mahoney’s game-high was complemented by 21 points from McCoy, and by a 16-point, eight-rebound effort from Walter Whyte.
“I’m proud of my team,” Jones said. “This is probably the best group of guys that I’ve coached since I’ve been at BU.”