By: Ethan Fuller
BOSTON, MA — Boston University men’s basketball was not at their best Saturday afternoon. But the Terriers still put together a strong second half to take down a struggling Holy Cross team 77-68 at Case Gym, marking their fifth straight victory.
BU improves to a strong 9-3 in the conference and 15-10 overall, but Holy Cross’ record (3-22, 2-10 PL) disguises the challenge the team posed this weekend.
“They’re well-coached, they’re tough,” head coach Joe Jones said of Holy Cross. “Brett [Nelson] is a terrific coach.”
BU got off to a slow start in the first half and played “terrible” defense as noted by Jones. Junior Javante McCoy agreed, emphasizing the need to start games with an attack mindset.
“Just being aggressive,” McCoy said. “Stay in attack mode [on] defense and offense cause that’s how we play. We know what we’re capable of.”
That lack of focus stems from what Jones and McCoy agreed was a poor practice on Friday. The team was “out of sorts,” and that translated to the early portion of Saturday’s affair.
“I think it made us play a little more timid,” said McCoy,” because we didn’t want to make mistakes to let that practice be the excuse.”
But the second half saw a greater level of focus and a stronger offensive output from the Terriers, who won the final 20 minutes 43-33. McCoy went 4-of-4 from the field and scored 10 of his team-high 20 points after the break, while Max Mahoney added 11 of his 17 after halftime.
“Collectively we had a better level of focus in the second half,” Jones said.
One of the sparse silver linings for the Crusaders in an otherwise dismal season has been the play of star freshman Joe Pridgen. The 6-5 forward has been electric in purple througout the season, averaging 16.4 points and nearly seven rebounds per contest this year. He’s listed at 210 pounds, but Pridgen’s strength combined with developed skill already makes him a matchup problem.
In two contests against the Terriers, Pridgen has been a force, going for 22 points and eight rebounds on Saturday after a 20-point, eight-rebound effort on January 25.
Jones acknowledged that Pridgen’s ability to create space on his drives creates a challenge for smaller defenders at the rim.
“If you put a guy on [Pridgen] that’s his size,” said Jones, “he’s able to get the ball near the basket and he’s just gonna elevate over guys. He’s just a gifted athlete with a nice wide body, so creates space on his way up, and you have nothing at the rim.”
The Terriers countered with different defenders to little avail, and it was finally Suk Mathon, with his strength and size at 6-foot-10, who was able to slow down Pridgen.
“You have to put bigger guys on him so when he gets [to the rim] he’s gonna have to score over bigger bodies,” said Jones. “Suk did a good job on him in the start of the second half.”
With the win, the Terriers maintain their grip on second place in the Patriot League standings and keep pace with red-hot Colgate. The Raiders, however, have been the class of the conference thus far, with their two losses both coming at the hands of Lafayette College.
Monday’s 7:00 p.m. showdown is shaping up to be BU’s biggest game of their regular season. A victory makes a statement against Colgate while also moving the Terriers to a tie for first place in the Patriot League. A loss ends the five-game win streak and drops them back into the thick of a race for the second seed.
Last month BU lost 79-70 in a game where Max Mahoney played just ten minutes due to injuries. But the circumstances mean nothing to McCoy, who is focused on the next matchup.
“We’ve been here,” he said. We can’t use [Mahoney’s injury] as an excuse for why we lost last time. But coming in now, there’s no excuse, so we just gotta come in and play our game.”
The quick turnaround is also a quirk in the schedule for the Terriers. The players have been given lighter practices over the past week, but Jones is confident that his team can step in with the energy to compete.
“The last time we had to do this we played great against Loyola on the road,” said Jones. “We had one of our better games in a hostile environment. We’ll be ready to go.”
Featured image by Hannah Yoshinaga.