By: Liam O’Brien
At the conclusion of the season’s opening week, the Boston University men’s basketball team has already played the two toughest squads they will play before Patriot League play.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the way the Terriers (1-1) have stacked up to some stiff competition.
After coming back to defeat Northeastern, 77-74, on Tuesday night after entering the contest as 14-point underdogs, BU narrowly fell to America East favorite Vermont, 78-72, in their home opener on Friday night at Case Gym.
“We split the two games but I thought we showed a lot of fight in both games,” said junior forward Max Mahoney, who led BU with 18 points and eight rebounds. “A lot of bright spots that we can build on.”
Despite giving heavy minutes to some inexperienced underclassmen, the Terriers are playing with plenty of confidence.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Mahoney. “We have a lot of new guys, didn’t really know how they’d mesh. I think they have done a great job.”
The freshmen have provided big buckets for the Terriers over the first two games. Against the Huskies, forward Jordan Guest knocked down a critical three-pointer to bring BU to within two points of Northeastern late before forward Fletcher Tynen swished a pair of foul shots to seal the deal.
“[Guest] has done a great job of pursuing the ball,” Mahoney said. “It’s going to pay off eventually, I keep telling him that. Just keep going and making plays and doing what you can do to keep you on the floor.”
Tonight, it was first-year guard Jonas Harper blowing by his defender and finishing with contact to give the Terriers a 47-40 lead in the second half. It was guard redshirt freshman Alex Vilarino sprinting past the Catamounts (1-0) defense on the fast break, getting to his spot in the middle of the lane, a soaring for a silky right-handed floater to put his team up 10 points against a perennial 20-game winner with 13 minutes left in the game.
While the end result was less than desirable, the Terriers were impressive all game long and had the contest in their control. With 13 minutes remaining, BU found themselves with a 5-44 lead after a tip-in by Tynen.
“They have a great frontcourt,” Catamounts junior forward Anthony Lamb, who exploded for 19 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three steals said. “Their bigs played really hard and they gave me a battle all night. If you’re working the whole game, it shows how well-coached you are and how much you care. They are working hard.”
The Catamounts (1-0) made their run, surging ahead to take a 61-58 advantage with eight minutes to go. But, BU did not back down. They took hold of the contest and went on a 8-0 run punctuated by a beautiful transition sequence which culminated in a three-pointer by junior forward Tyler Scanlon off a feed from sophomore point guard Javante McCoy.
“We knew, especially after the Northeastern game with them winning, that we were going to face a really tough team tonight,” Vermont redshirt senior guard Ernie Duncan, who scored 18 points, said. “Probably one of the harder-playing teams we will play all year. We knew coming in it was going to be an absolute battle, coming into their place and trying to get a win.”
Both Northeastern and Vermont are teams expected to be in the conversation on Selection Sunday. If the Terriers can hang with these teams, a deep postseason run is not out of the question.
“They have a really good program,” Lamb said.
These are the types of performances that can light the fire under a team and enhance their confidence. If BU is pushing Vermont down to the wire in a loud environment, why can’t they do the same against Patriot League favorites like Bucknell and Lehigh?