By: Matt Doherty
BU kicked off its 2018-19 campaign Tuesday night with a statement victory, knocking off CAA favorite Northeastern, 77-74 in come from behind fashion at Matthews Arena.
The Terriers trailed by 12 points midway through the second half and by nine points with under five minutes to go, but battled back to beat a veteran laden team on the road.
Northeastern might be the most talented opponent on BU’s schedule the entire season, so let’s dive into what we learned about the Terriers from game one.
Joe Jones mixed and matched his lineups all evening long. The Terriers played without forward Walter Whyte, who is out 4-6 weeks, which meant rotation flexibility was paramount.
Eleven Terriers saw playing time with ten of them logging 12 minutes or more. Only freshman Garrett Pascoe played fewer than 12 minutes. He recorded five minutes, in large part due to the two fouls he picked up in the first 31 seconds of the game.
Freshmen Fletcher Tynen, Alex Vilarino, Jack Hemphill, Jordan Guest, and Jonas Harper all played crucial minutes for Jones off the bench. And that group showed versatility, talent, and toughness.
Tynen, Hemphill, and Guest are stretch forwards that can play the three or the small-ball five, something Jones utilized Tuesday. Guest and Hemphill shared the floor at some points which helped with spacing. However, it was Guest and Tynen who were out on the court in crunch-time minutes.
Guest made a huge three-pointer to cut the deficit to 70-68 and Tynen was brought in for defensive purposes and made two free throws to ice the game. Jones spent much of the game rotating Guest and Hemphill, but it was Guest, who finished with 6 points and 3 rebounds, that saw the closing minutes.
After Pascoe picked up the two early fouls, Jones summoned Harper from the bench; not Texas Tech transfer Alex Vilarino. Harper, a walk-on, provided a spark plug in the first half, scoring five points.
But in the second half, it was Vilarino who shined. He finished with eight points and scored key buckets in the comeback, showing his ability to drive to the basket and finish with the bigs.
The way Jones used the combinations of Guest/Hemphill and Vilarino/Harper showed that even he wasn’t sure of the rotations.
He rode the hot hands of Guest and Vilarino in the final minutes. But moving forward, that could easily be Harper, Hemphill, or Pascoe. It’s something to watch in the upcoming games.
With Whyte out, the Terriers do not have a player who needs to shoot the ball. So with eleven guys in the rotation, the roster flexibility gives Jones the ability to play who’s playing well at the time. The result was fluid and unselfishness offense.
A cliche in the sports world, I can’t help but recognize the Terriers’ toughness on Tuesday. Northeastern is an NCAA Tournament caliber team, entered the game as a 14-point favorite, and had the best player on the floor in guard Vasa Pusica.
The Huskies also have five upperclassmen in their rotation compared to the Terriers’ two. Even the most optimistic BU fans weren’t expecting the result that transpired.
When BU fell behind by 12 with with 12:43 left and then again by nine with 4:48 left, it felt like Northeastern was about to blow it open. But this team was as resilient as I’ve ever seen them, battling back on the road against a very good and experienced team.
Tyler Scanlon was the best player on the floor for BU last night and he did a fantastic job of leading the team when they were down. The energy and excitement from young guys like Vilarino and Guest were evident. And guard Javante McCoy showed poise and toughness down the stretch, making a number of key buckets.
This was as gusty and impressive of a win that BU has had in the Joe Jones tenure.
The Plays that Mattered
Scanlon had the shot of the game, a tough jumper with 28 seconds left that put up for good, 73-72. On the play, Scanlon picked up his dribble right outside the paint and flung a shot up. The ball was tipped but still went in.
McCoy also made a huge three-pointer to cut the deficit to 68-62 at the time. Scanlon actually missed a layup on that possession but McCoy gathered the offensive rebound and then a hit a straightaway three.
A couple minutes later, Guest made a three-pointer off a pick-and-roll set with McCoy. Max Mahoney was fouled on the shot and made a free throw, cutting the Northeastern lead to 70-69 with 1:36 left. The four point possession might have been the turning point of the game.
I’ve mentioned it already but Scanlon was great in this game. He scored 16 points on 7-12 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds, and logged a team-high 36 minutes.
Andrew Petcash made two three-pointers and finished with six points. He’s going to be an important shooter off the bench in a Will Goff type role.
We heard in high school that Tynen was a do-it-all type player, who’s contributions didn’t always show up in the stat sheet and that was true Tuesday. Tynen played 22 minutes, good for third on the team, and while the numbers (6 points, 5 rebounds) don’t jump off the page, he played phenomenal defense and had his nose in a lot of plays on that end.
Foul trouble was an issue for BU, especially for the big men. Mahoney had four fouls which limited him to just 20 minutes. Sukhmail Mathon had three fouls in 12 minutes and Pascoe picked up the two fouls in 31 seconds which threw a wrench in his night.
Once again, the Terriers struggled from the line, going just 13-22. But they did make all four free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the win.
The Terriers will have another tough task on Friday night when they welcome Vermont to Case Gym for the home opener. The Catamounts are 56-11 over the past two seasons and are a perennial NCAA Tournament team out of the America East.