By: Ethan Fuller
Boston University nabbed their first win on Saturday in a 91-63 rout of SUNY Polytechnic. The opponent was a Division III school, and the final score says that BU rolled as expected.
But the team took a much more critical look at their performance. Even in a 28-point blowout, there were obvious places where BU could have played better.
“I thought we played well, we played focused, maybe for half the game,” head coach Joe Jones said after the win. “I thought the other half we didn’t play with focus; we didn’t play as hard. We were really sporadic.”
For a squad with a high ceiling and Patriot League championship aspirations, nitpicking the details and keeping everyone focused is crucial. Jones hopes the team can learn a lot about themselves from the ups and downs of Saturday’s contest.
“You know, it’s kind of early in the year; it’s hard to be really good,” he said. “Hopefully we can use this game to get better.”
Here’s what stood out in BU’s victory.
Whyte Emphasizes Consistency
Building off of a career game against Northeaster, sophomore forward Walter Whyte continued to raise eyebrows against the Wildcats, dropping 23 points on just eleven shots. His form continues to be a remarkable display of offseason work ethic, and Whyte told reporters that he made adjustments even after the first contest.
“Focusing on my footwork on the catches, trying to get in the paint and get paint touches and make plays from there — I think I was a little bit better with that today,” he said. “Just kinda playing within myself and within the offense.”
But even while he puts up 20-point performances, Whyte still believes he has “another level” to reach.
“Mentally, there are still steps to getting back where you used to be,” he said. “Physically, I’m 100 percent, but the mental part is still just as important. So I think there’s still a lot of growth there, too.”
Whyte echoed Jones’ sentiments about the team’s play against SUNY Polytechnic: that they turned it on at times, but did not have consistent focus.
“We have laspes — sometimes we play hard, sometimes we don’t,” Whyte said. “But more so, [we need to] just stay consistent.”
After a season removed from college basketball, Whyte has made an early statement about his game, and plans to keep showing that he’s back.
“More so, [I want to] just prove to myself that I can play at a high level — keep working hard every day and get better,” he said.
Bench Sparks Fly
The Terrier bench players received increased time due to a large lead, and offensively, they looked better than the stagnant offense that showed up against Northeastern.
Junior wing Andrew Petcash has only missed one shot all season after going a perfect 4-for-4 against SUNY. Petcash has always been a threat to catch fire from deep; Jones was more impressed with the energy he brought to his play.
“He really came in and gave us a lift defensively, made some hustle plays, and then that turned into some good things offensively,” he said.
After really struggling in the season opener, junior forward Sukhmail Mathon put together a serious bounce-back effort, scoring twelve points and nearly hitting a double-double with nine rebounds. According to Jones, Mathon earned this game, as he’s been putting in work throughout practices.
“I was happy that he was able to do well [Saturday],” Jones said. “He’s put so much time into his came. He’s a great teammate, he wants to be good, he wants to help the team win.”
Aside from those two, sophomore Jack Hemphill also scored nine points off the bench, and Ethan Brittain-Watts and Fletcher Tynen both added their first buckets of the season.
Executing on Both Ends
Outside of a monstrous 40-8 run in the first half that blew open the game for BU, both teams played fairly evenly on the scoreboard. Offensively, the Terriers seemed to be moving the ball a bit more and slowly breaking from the jagged isolation play that defined their opening night loss. But they still have work to do.
“I think we got a chance to be a really good offensive team,” Jones said, “and I think we really have to work on our execution. I don’t think we’re close to being what we could be.”
Instead, the isolation issues seemed to creep over to the defensive side. SUNY Poly’s roster, with players like Josh Gregory, Jesse O’Dell and Caleb Canty, holds a lot of players with indivdual skill packages. They often went to work in the post, and the Terriers were inconsistent with their help.
“We let each other play on an island without supporting the ball,” Jones said. “They got a ton of layups at the rim because we were way spread out. We weren’t in any rotations because we weren’t helping enough.”
Cooling off the Catamounts
Next up for the Terriers is a difficult test against a one-time America East foe in the University of Vermont. UVM boasts one of the most prolific wing players in the nation: 6-6 senior Anthony Lamb. After facing off against one dynamic scorer in Husky Jordan Roland, BU hopes they can improve in this traditionally competitive matchup.
“It’s gonna be a great environment to play in,” Jones said. “And it’ll be against a really high-level mid-major team, so we’re excited for the opportunity.”
“We gotta be ready from the jump,” Whyte added. “Forty minutes of just playing hard, and that goes for me and the team. So I’m excited.”
The Cats are BU’s first road opponent of the season. The Terriers’ performance will be a good litmus test for the program, as they have one more home contest before embarking on a six-game road trip that includes some tough opponents through the Cancun Challenge.
If the Terriers can bring the consistent energy they need to Burlington, it would drastically swing the momentum ahead of the formidable road slate. Tip-off for Wednesday’s game against Vermont is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.