By: Liam O’Brien
For weeks, the Boston University men’s basketball team had been mired in a slump from beyond the three-point arc.
The shot selection was fine but the results were not. The Terriers limped to a 2-6 record in the Patriot League, tied for last in the conference with a 31.4% conversion rate from deep.
But, BU managed to flip the switch and learned what it felt like to see those shots go in on Wednesday night in a tilt against Holy Cross. The Terriers fared 11-of-20 from three-point land en route to a euphoric 68-54 victory over the Crusaders in front of 966 people at Case Gym.
“We’ve been getting good shots all year,” BU head coach Joe Jones said. “I don’t watch our games like, ‘Oh my god, we couldn’t get a good shot.’ We moved the ball.”
In modern college basketball, you have to knock down threes in order to win games. Just look at conference opponent Lehigh, off to a 6-2 start in league play behind 46 percent three-point shooting.
This triumph signaled the first time BU has shot over 50 percent from three-point range this season. The Terriers came into Wednesday night having not made more than eight threes in a game since their win over New Hampshire Nov. 28. This performance put two months of mediocre shooting in the rearview mirror.
“Tonight, we made good shots,” Jones said. “The same shots we have been missing.”
Playing against Holy Cross’ 2-3 zone defense, BU seized the opportunity to capture some high-quality shots from outside. Sophomore guard Javante McCoy emerged for 14 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting, classmate Andrew Petcash continued his encouraging January with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep and junior forward Tyler Scanlon set the tone with 17 points while going 3-of-6 behind the stripe.
“Throughout the year, we haven’t been a great three-point shooting team,” Scanlon said. “We can get guys like that going, that’s really important. That also brings energy.”
Even redshirt freshman Alex Vilarino got in on the action, canning an open trey from the left wing in the second half for his first career three-point make against a Division 1 opponent.
Many of these uncontested openings are created by the presence of junior forward Max Mahoney inside. The big man worked his way to 19 points and nine rebounds and his ability to score in the paint creates space for shooters on the perimeter.
“We’ve been getting good shots because people are going to have to do something with Max,” Jones said. “They can’t play Max one-on-one the whole game. Because we’re unselfish and we got a guy that’s a dominant low-post player, we move the ball and get good shots.”
Mahoney finished the game with a pair of assists and Scanlon dished out six of his own.
“If we can make plays, it will open things up for some of our other guys,” Scanlon said.
BU started off hot and the three-point shot was an integral part of its early run. The Terriers shot 5-of-10 from deep in the first half. Three of those makes came in the first four minutes of the game as BU built an 11-5 advantage behind two Scanlon treys and one from McCoy.
“We did a great job sharing the ball,” Mahoney said. “Guys making some big shots spreads out the defense. They have a lot more guys [they] have to guard.”