By: Greg Levinsky
In order for the Boston University men’s basketball team to win, they need juniors Max Mahoney and Tyler Scanlon along with sophomore Javante McCoy to carry the load. With an inexperienced rotation including six freshman, the three multi-year starter’s impact is key.
Against two-time reigning Patriot League champion Bucknell University on Saturday, those three did exactly what they needed to do in the Patriot League home opener as part of an 87-80 win for the host Terriers (8-7, 1-1 Patriot League) over the visiting Bison (7-7, 1-1).
Mahoney erupted for 26 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. McCoy collected 18 points, including going six-of-six from the free-throw line. Scanlon added 12 points.
“If those three guys can get it… That’s the way we need to go,” Boston University head coach Joe Jones said.
Mahoney helped the Terriers to a commanding lead in the first half. He collected six points, four rebounds and three assists a steal and a block in the first 13 minutes to help BU to a 27-15 lead.
“As an upperclassmen, especially starting these games, you want to get the energy going and set an example for the younger guys,” Mahoney said. “Just to play with energy on the offensive and defensive ends, make big plays, is good to hype up yourself and the guys around you.”
“Especially in the first half of this game, he was just outstanding,” Jones said.
McCoy said Mahoney is the keys the invigorates of his teammates.
“I know myself, nobody can guard him,” McCoy said. “When he’s out there killin’ like that, it extends to everybody.”
Senior guard Kimbal Mackenzie helped the Bison bring it back within four points, but Mahoney sparked an 8-0 run over a 67-second span with a traditional 3-point play to bring the lead back to 12, 37-25, with 4:12 to play in the first half. Mahoney connected on 12-of-20 field goal attempts for the game.
Mackenzie collected 13 of his 19 points in the first half on 5-of-6 shooting. Mahoney had 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists a block and steal in the first half alone as the Terriers went up 43-32 in the first half.
“I was just trying to make some big plays when I could,” Mahoney said.
Preseason All-Conference selection Nate Sestina helped the Bison claw back, nailing a pair of deep triples as they pulled within four, 63-59 midway through the second half. At 6-foot-9, Sestina provided a tough defensive matchup for the Terriers with his outside skills. He finished with a game-high 27 points to go with nine rebounds.
“Sestina was terrific too,” Jones said. “They went head to head.
“It’s high level basketball.”
Mahoney answered whenever needed. On one sequence, he pinned Sestina with a block, got a traditional 3-point play and stole the ensuing inbounds pass.
Moments like those make Mahoney great, but the Bison always answered. Bruce Moore cut the lead to three on two separate occasions, first with a free-throw, then with a thunderous dunk in traffic.
But Terrier freshman Jack Hemphill doubled the lead with a right-wing triple with just over three minutes left. Sestina responded with a tip-in to cut it to 79-75 with 45.4 seconds left.
“I thought we were smart throughout the game,” Jones said. “We didn’t make plays that hurt us.”
The Terriers made all eight of their free throw attempts in the final minute ensuring their first conference victory.
“I thought we played our game today,” Mahoney said.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky