By: Liam O’Brien
We thought we had figured out the Boston University men’s basketball team after last Saturday’s convincing win over Nicholls.
The blueprint to success for the Terriers (7-6) appeared simple: rebound the ball and dominate the paint.
BU controlled both of those aspects against Bethune-Cookman on Friday night at Case Gym in their non-conference finale. They outrebounded the Wildcats 44-26 and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, limiting their counterparts to just three.
The Terriers did their thing in the paint as well, scoring 34 points in the key compared to Bethune-Cookman’s 28. Nevertheless, BU fell 74-66 to their visitors from Florida in a game in which they were favored by 10.5 points.
“I got to work hard every day. I got to have the same focus every day,” said head coach Joe Jones. “That’s what we are struggling with the most. When you don’t have that, it’s really hard. We have to talk about how guys handle their goals.”
Going into conference play, here is what we know about these Terriers: they are a group capable of beating NCAA Tournament-caliber squads such as Northeastern when they play to their potential. However, they lack experience and rely exclusively on juniors Max Mahoney and Tyler Scanlon to lead the way.
“I don’t think we have put it together yet,” Jones said. “It’s unfair to think we we’re going to. You got six freshman in your top 9-10 guys. This isn’t Duke. It takes some time.”
BU is undoubtedly deep, but their dependence on freshmen has resulted in inconsistency from game to game. They have alternated between wins and losses in their last four contests, three of which have come at home.
The Terriers strength is in the frontcourt. When opponents feed the ball inside, they have a tough time scoring in the post against the trees of Mahoney, sophomore center Sukhmail Mathon and freshmen forwards Jordan Guest and Jack Hemphill. When the ball enters the key, the BU guards help well and use their quick hands to force turnovers and create transition opportunities.
“There are some really good things here,” Jones said. “You can’t lose sight of that.”
However, the Terriers have struggled to guard the three-pointer and stay in front of quicker guards. We saw this vulnerability harm them in a 78-68 loss at Dartmouth December 13 in which the Big Green made 14 three-pointers. We saw this doom BU again on Friday as Bethune-Cookman shot 8-of-12 from beyond the three-point arc while the Terriers had trouble with the three-ball, going 8-of-30.
“We just have to learn from our setbacks and understand it’s got to be more of a growth mentality,” Jones said. “I don’t know if they understand that every day we got to try to get a little better. Tonight, we were going to have to be really on top of our game to win if we were going to shoot the ball this poorly.”
This team has talent and chemistry and can beat any team on their schedule if they play to their potential and run their offense through Mahoney inside. But, they can also lose to anybody in the Patriot League if they continue to allow inconsistency and lack of age to hamper them.
“We’re going to have to be one of those teams where it’s like, ‘Wow, they really put it together,” Jones said.