By: Greg Levinsky
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Anticipation before the first game of conference play is always high, much like the season opener. A win feels like a championship. A loss stings.
The Boston University men’s basketball team opened up Patriot League play Wednesday in the nation’s capital against American University, falling 86-74 at Bender Arena.
Four scored in double figures for the Terriers (7-7, 0-1 Patriot League), but American junior Sa’eed Nelson erupted for 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting and sophomore Sam Iorio added 23 points to backbone the pesky Eagles (7-5, 1-0).
“We did not do a great job of containing their better players,” said Boston University head coach Joe Jones. “Obviously Sa’eed was tremendous. We could not keep him out of the lane. He kind of dominated the game.”
American won just three conference games last season, two of which came against the Terriers. This year, American figures to win roughly half of their conference games, while the Terriers look to contend for a top-four spot and rights to host a quarterfinal game in the Patriot League Tournament.
It’s way too early to think about the postseason. There are 18 conference games remaining this season, including a guaranteed playoff game. A lot can change in the next two months.
Junior Tyler Scanlon led BU with 18 points. Classmate Max Mahoney added 15. Sophomore Javante McCoy had 14, and freshman Alex Vilarino tossed in 10.
BU led by seven points just over five minutes into the game, but the Eagles came storming back, closing the first half on a 32-14 run. The deficit got up to as much as 16 before a Scanlon jumper cut it to five with 5:25 remaining.
“We weren’t able to accomplish anything defensively that we wanted to do,” Jones said. “I include myself on that. I have to do a better job of preparing them, and we have to go out and execute it.”
From there, the Eagles went on a 13-4 run to regain a 14 point lead with just under three minutes remaining to hand the Terriers the loss.
“It’s a tough league, the kids are competitive and they’re going to play hard every night,” Jones said. “We’ve got to get more guys that understand that.”
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky