By: Ethan Fuller
BOSTON, MA — All year long the Terriers had struggled to get into a consistent offensive rhythm. On Saturday, behind strong efforts from the “Big Three” of Max Mahoney, Javante McCoy and Walter Whyte, Boston University (2-2) rolled out their best offensive performance of the young season in an 84-70 win over the University of New Hampshire (2-2).
McCoy and Mahoney each logged new season highs with 20 points apiece, while Whyte came in right behind with 19. The Terriers shot a blistering 54.4 percent from the field, even with just a 28.6 percent clip from deep, and much of that success can be attributed to improved ball movement.
“I thought offensively, we played pretty good,” head coach Joe Jones said postgame. “We made plays for each other.”
Jones emphasized that when the Terriers “get in a flow,” they can work the offense through Mahoney, McCoy and Whyte while also opening up opportunities for specialist scorers like Sukhmail Mathon, Jonas Harper and Andrew Petcash. In their two losses, BU struggled to find that groove, but Saturday demonstrated progress.
“Sometimes you have to get into a flow differently depending on what the defense is giving you … once we’re in that flow, I know we’re in good shape,” Jones said.
Tactically, that “flow” hinges on crisp perimeter cuts and passes, multiple actions in a possession and constant movement. But it also relies on a degree of cohesion and togetherness — something the players also highlighted.
“We just focused more on playing with each other, making extra passes, and having fun out there,” McCoy said.
There’s a lot to dissect from BU’s final November home game:
Mahoney Shows Out
Senior and Preseason All-Patriot League nominee Max Mahoney entered Saturday having played a quiet first three contests and coming off of a tough 2-of-10 shooting night against Vermont. But Mahoney broke through against the Wildcats, putting up 20 points while making eight of his ten shots, grabbing nine boards and adding three assists.
Mahoney noted that this game, for himself and for the team, proved they can play with physical toughness after losing to a physically tough team in Vermont.
“We wanted to show that we can bang with anybody, especially against some bigger, physical guys,” he said.
Throughout practice this past week, Mahoney said the team focused on “trusting the offense” and getting away from the isolation tendencies that defined much of their first contests. He also appreciated the hustle his team showed through diving for loose balls, battling on the glass, and in Mahoney’s case, taking some hard charges.
“It’s plays like that that energize the guys around you,” he said.
McCoy in Attack Mode
Also breaking out for the first time this season was junior Javante McCoy, who notched his 700th career point in a Terrier uniform on Saturday. The 6-5 swingman had really struggled to make shots early and took the floor having converted just seven of 26 attempts on the year.
But McCoy played aggressively throughout the game, getting his 20 through a slick handle and an ability to rise up at the rim. For McCoy, his confidence in his style shown through; he knew the shots would start falling.
“I feel like whether or not my shot’s going in, I gotta keep that same mindset,” McCoy said. “Cause they’re all shots I know I can make.”
Tonight also marked the first real coming-out party for all three of McCoy, Mahoney and Whyte. McCoy acknowledged that while it took some work to fit all of them together, Saturday showed just how lethal the trio can be when working off each other.
McCoy has evolved into a playmaker over the course of his collegiate career, and he enjoys the role of getting the whole team involved.
“It’s fun, just playing out there and knowing the people you’re with like playing for you and you’re playing for them,” he said.
“I try to get people going because I know the best team you have is a team that’s firing on all cylinders.”
Rotate, Rotate, Rotate
The Terriers’ defensive game plan revolved around keeping the Wildcats from easy layup chances and open catch-and-shoot threes. In some ways, they were effective; sharpshooter Josh Hopkins failed to score on five attempts.
In other areas they struggled. UNH forward Jayden Martinez torched BU for 19 points and five of the team’s ten triples, many coming off the catch. Marque Maultsby and Blondeau Tchoukuiengo both came off the bench and made multiple threes.
“Because we were trying to take away some of their post-ups,” Jones said, “they started getting some inside-out shots. If we go “dig” to support the ball when it’s in, then the other guys on the perimeter have to stunt or rotate, and we weren’t getting that at all.”
Meanwhile, BU did effectively defend the Wildcats’ leading scorer, forward Nick Guadarrama. He made just one bucket (a catch-and-shoot three) in the entire game and was frequently gridlocked when looking to get inside. Jones noted that Walter Whyte, who guarded Guadarrama for most of the contest, matched the scorer’s level of toughness.
“I thought Walter Whyte [and] his physicality gave Guadarrama some issues,” he said.
Second Half Energy
A 14-3 Terrier run to open the second half turned the tide of the game in BU’s favor. Two steals, a Mahoney drawn charge and hot shooting changed the game from a 36-32 nail-biter to a 50-35 blowout. The frenetic energy that buzzed through the on-court players was a far cry from any of the previous second halves.
“I was proud that we were able to come out and play with some energy,” Jones said. “We did a good job not letting them run their offense.”
Eventually, UNH reigned in the deficit slightly by tossing aside some of their nuances and letting the brute strength of its players lead the way. But BU was able to shut down a couple of short bursts to seal a double-digit victory thanks to that longer run of energy.
“You can’t do something good in the first half and then kinda settle down going into the second half,” McCoy said. “That’s a big thing we’ve been focusing on in practice.”
Against UNH, we saw perhaps the most complete performance from Walter Whyte this season. He did not lead in scoring, but the redshirt sophomore’s efficient 19 points also came with five rebounds and a monster block that fired up the crowd. As Jones mentioned, Walter played extremely tough defense on Guadarrama all night long, and his improved strength became a serious asset.
The Terrier bench largely struggled to score. Suk Mathon had a nice night with six points, but the rest of the reserves made just one shot in total.
However, I’m not overly worried. Ethan Brittain-Watts, the other scorer, looks more confident on the perimeter and while he went just 1-of-3 from deep, they were quality looks that all nearly fell. Andrew Petcash did not get up the shots he needed, but as a 77 percent three-point shooter so far this year, he likely just had an off night.
Fletcher Tynen and Jack Hemphill did not get a whole ton of run time in this game, but their depth will be needed on the upcoming trip.
Road Test Ahead: I Sure Hope It Does!
Case Gym will not host men’s basketball for nearly a month as the team competes in the Cancun Challenge. Part of the Challenge sees BU face off against two strong basketball programs in South Carolina and West Virginia.
The Terriers enter both contests as underdogs, but Saturday’s win brings some much-needed positive offensive momentum. Understanding their system can be effective and then tweaking it to overcome the defensive strengths of their opponents is the next step for the squad’s growth.
“We played the way we want to play, which is a start,” Jones said. “Now it’s gonna be harder to play with a flow, but you know what that feels like… They’re not gonna let you make every pass, so now you’re gonna have to do some different things to create some movement.”
Mahoney feels these high-major contests not only challenge the Terriers, but also push them to a new level of play.
“It makes us a play a lot harder, and smarter,” he said. “Defensively, you have to be locked in. There are some guys that can really score the ball at a high level.”
McCoy stressed that he and the team relish the chance to test themselves against schools with more of a national reputation.
“It’s cool to play a hype team — a team with a big name,” he said. “But mindset-wise, it’s the same.”
“I think if we play together, and we play hard, I really, truly, honestly think we can beat any team.”
Featured image courtesy of Hannah Yoshinaga.