By: Greg Levinsky
Individual expectations around the Boston University men’s basketball team are tough to pinpoint. Other than three veterans, the rotation is mostly open. As a pair of freshman entered the starting lineup for the first time in their careers, the Terriers continued their season-long emphasis on team play in a 75-63 win over Nicholls State University on Saturday at Case Gym.
For the first time this season, head coach Joe Jones made a pair of changes in the Terriers starting lineup, as Alex Vilarino and Jordan Guest earned their first career starts. Vilarino, who redshirted last year for a semester at Texas Tech and later at BU, started in place of freshman guard Garrett Pascoe, who missed the game due to illness. Guest started in place of sophomore center Sukhmail Mathon.
Junior forward Max Mahoney, who had a team-high 20 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists said Vilarino and Guest fit in with the starting unit.
“We had to have some other guys step up today, and I think Alex and Jordan did a great job,” Mahoney said.
Jones said Vilarino would’ve started whether Pascoe was available or not because he saw him meshing better with the starters. Jones inserted Guest because he felt it would strengthen the rotation.
“I just thought we needed a change,” he said.
A Vilarino three-point play just over halfway through the first game BU its first lead. It was his bucket that started an 11-2 run, making it a three-possession game with just over five minutes to play in the half. Freshman forward Jack Hemphill (9 points, 5 rebounds) scored seven straight points for the Terriers in a span of 107 seconds to give BU its first double-digit lead with less than two minutes in the first half.
“You bring a guy like Jack off the bench, obviously he can put a lot of pressure on you,” Jones said.
BU (7-5) went into halftime with a 39-26 advantage as Vilarino scooped in a score just before the buzzer. He finished with five points, four rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes.
“I felt like it was very important that they were going to press us today,” Vilarino said. “A lot of times there were three on two opportunities, so I was just trying to do my best and push the ball to others so they could get shots.”
His work was enough to impress his coach.
“I like what I saw from him tonight,” Jones said.
Guest had nine points in 22 minutes. Mathon produced a solid effort off the bench – arguably his best performance of the season – with six points and seven rebounds across 15 minutes.
Nicholls (5-5) crept back in on the strength of Jeremiah Jefferson (game-high 21 points), but a Mahoney bucket off a lob from Tyler Scanlon (11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) coupled with a free throw resulted in another three-point play to help the Terriers keep a double-digit lead.
Defensive stop leads to Scanlon’s touchdown throw to Mahoney! #GoBU
— BU Men’s Basketball (@TerrierMBB) December 15, 2018
“Chemistry,” Mahoney said. “Straight chemistry.”
The junior duo of Scanlon and Mahoney, along with sophomore guard Javante McCoy make up the aforementioned veterans. They are the only three Terriers averaging double figures in scoring.
A plethora of rotational players provide the rest of the team’s points, and against Nicholls eight players scored at least five points. The Terriers also produced a season high in assists, with 20 of their 30 field goals coming via the helper.
“We have a lot of different pieces that can come together at any night and make plays, and I think you saw that today,” Vilarino said.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky