Thursday, March 20, 2014

PHOTOS & VIDEOS: BU Falls to Illinois in NIT 1st Round 66-62

Post Game Press Conferences (via YouTube)

Boston University:

Illinois University:

Photos (via Flickr)
By Christopher Dela Rosa/DFP Staff

Saturday, March 8, 2014

BU defeats U.S. Military Academy, advances to finals

By Sarah Kirkpatrick/DFP Staff

As the Boston University men’s basketball team ran off the court at Agganis Arena following a 91-70 Patriot League semifinal victory over the U.S. Military Academy Saturday, the Terriers stopped to high-five and chest-bump a group of faithful fans. It was clear what was on their minds: One win to go.

BU (24-9) beat Army (15-16) in both of their previous matchups this season, but both were very close — one, an 86-81 overtime win for the Terriers on Jan. 29, and the other a 71-70 nail-biting BU victory on Feb. 26.

Army appeared to be overwhelming the Terriers (24-9) early on in Saturday’s game, with the Black Knights’ lead extending to 8-2 just a couple minutes in. Junior forward Malik Thomas and sophomore forward Justin Alston entered the game for senior forward Dom Morris and sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonn√© following a TV timeout. Thomas made an immediate impact, cutting the score in half, 8-4.

Army’s Mo Williams Jr. responded quickly to extend the lead to 10-4, but a stepback jumper from Thomas added another two for BU. On the other end of the floor on the next possession, Thomas grabbed a rebound and was subsequently fouled.

An Irving three just a little while later tied things up at 13 apiece with 12:23 remaining. Williams made a two for Army, but Watson tied the game up again with a two.

Just seconds later, though, Morris stepped back and hit a 3-pointer for BU’s first lead of the game at 18-15. Army made a two-point basket on the next possession, but Thomas’s three right after that pushed the Terrier lead to 21-17.

After senior captain D.J. Irving twisted around a defender and flipped it up for a two, he followed that up by another deep two to push the score to 25-20. Alston tipped it in for a score on the next possession, pushing the BU lead to 28-20.

BU maintained the lead for the remainder of the half. A pair of Army layups in the last two minutes cut the score to 39-35, with a last-second Army 3-point attempt falling short.

Things got a bit shakier for the Terriers after that as a layup from sophomore Kevin Ferguson and a jumper by classmate Kyle Wilson tied things up at 39 apiece.

It would take about eight minutes of too-close-for-comfort play before the Terriers finally flipped the switch. In that stretch, the Black Knights absolutely dominated the offensive glass, including one sequence where Army nabbed four consecutive offensive rebounds.

“That was excruciating watching that but it kind of summed up where the game was at that point,” said BU coach Jones regarding the four-rebound stretch. “You've got to give them a lot of credit. They came in here and I thought they outplayed us in terms of getting to loose balls and rebounds. It just seemed like we were in quicksand so we got into them and the next time out, our guys stepped up.”

A pair of free throws by Army forward Tanner Plomb brought his team within 55-50 with 11:36 remaining. That was the closest it would be for the rest of the game.

A layup from Morris extended the BU lead to seven. Freshman guard Cedric Hankerson drained a three after that on a perfect dish from Watson, giving the Terriers a double-digit margin. Watson soon made a jumper to push the lead to 12, and Thomas nabbed a layup to make it 14.

At that point, the game was all Terriers. The exclamation point on the victory came when Thomas brought the ball up the court, spinning around a defender and missing a basket, but Alston was there to slam it home to make the score 77-59 with 5:21 remaining. Two minutes later, sophomore guard John Papale sank a three on a pass from Watson to push the score to 86-62. A final layup from senior guard D.J. Irving with 1:36 left, followed by a three from Richard Brown, made the final score 91-70.

Five players ended the game in double digits — Irving (20), Morris (16), Thomas (15), Papale (14) and Watson (10).

“Our depth has been like that all year,” Jones said. “It's just been different guys. Cedric Hankerson has been involved in that, John Papale has been involved with that, Travis Robinson, Justin Alston in the first half. Malik was terrific. DJ was outstanding in terms of scoring the ball and we were just able to control the game a little bit at that time, but that's been the way it's been all year.”

Watson’s 17 assists were a school record, a Patriot League Tournament record and the most in NCAA Division I play this season.

“When I woke up this morning, I felt like this was going to be a 20-point win for us,” Watson said. “I felt like the first couple of games [against Army], we didn't have our best games defensively. We didn't do the things that we wanted to do. We didn't stick to our principles and we struggled tonight with the rebounding but once we put the pressure on and we're consistent, we're the best defensive team in this league, numbers-wise.

“We come out and play with that energy and that focus, for whatever stretch, it just adds more fuel to the fire because our offense is kicking and then our defense if kicking and then it's just getting them out of rhythm and that gets the crowd going and then everything is going our way from there.”

The victory propels the Terriers into the Patriot League Championship game, which BU will host at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night. If the Terriers can get past second-seeded American University, they will earn an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

“These guys are ballplayers,” Jones said. “They've been through this. Since they've been little, they've played in tournament games and championship games. They've been MVPs, All-Stars. They're used to the pressure of what this is all about and I think they're stepping up to the plate and making everybody on my staff, including me, look good right now.”

Irving noted the importance of staying focused on the task at hand and not letting the giant margin of victory get to the Terriers’ heads.

“We just have to keep getting better, take it one day at a time, take it one practice at a time,” Irving said. “Our next practice, we've just got to fight everyday, get better every possession, every day, every practice, just keep getting better until we're champions.


“... We've been waiting for this. We've been waiting to unleash what we have here at BU for the past two years and now I feel like it is our time.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

BU defeats Lafayette, advances to semifinal

By Christopher Dela Rosa/DFP Staff
Upon the release of the Patriot League preseason poll on Nov. 1, the Boston University men’s basketball team and Lafayette College were projected to be playing in the final game of the Patriot League Tournament.  Instead, a rough season for the Leopards led them to face No. 1-seeded Terriers in the quarterfinal round Wednesday night at Agganis Arena.
To start the game, Lafayette controlled the tip-off and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead off of a layup from center Nathaniel Musters. BU quickly responded with a 3-pointer from sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonn√© to grab the lead.Led by 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds from sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., BU (23-9, 15-3 Patriot League) defeated Lafayette (11-20, 6-12 Patriot League) by a 91-54 margin to advance to the semifinal round of the conference playoffs.  The 37-point margin of victory was the largest in a Patriot League quarterfinal since 2005, and BU’s 66.1 field-goal percentage set a new tournament record.
It seemed the Leopards were going to pick up where they left off in the first round against Loyola University-Maryland, where Lafayette shot a red-hot 63.6 percent from the field.  That would not be the case, however, and after the score was tied at five, the Terriers went on a 12-3 run behind successful offensive play by Watson to build a lead they would never relinquish.
“I just wanted to be super aggressive,” Watson said.  “I felt like I had to come out and be one of the leaders of the team.”
The Terriers continued their dominance throughout the half off of the impressive shooting of their backcourt. At the half, BU held a 42-27 lead. Thirty-one of those points came from the combined efforts of Watson, senior guard D.J. Irving and freshman guard Cedric Hankerson.
Watson led the trio with 15 points, shooting 6-for-10 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Irving and Hankerson combined to shoot 7-for-10 from the field and 2-of-3 from deep.  As a whole, BU shot 68 percent from the field on 25 shots and went 7-for-9 from the 3-point arc in the first half.
“You want to be playing your best basketball in March, and they’re locked in,” said BU coach Joe Jones.
The Leopards started the second half down by 15 points and tried to jumpstart their offense with some quick 3-pointers out of the gate. Tight defense by the Terriers forced two consecutive missed 3-point attempts, though, and the Terriers went for easy baskets on the other end to pad their lead.
“In Loyola we were feeling it, but today Boston played a really good defensive game, said Lafayette captain Seth Hinrichs.  “[BU] really got on our shooters and forced shots.”
Although the Leopards called a timeout with 16:14 left to try slow the down the Terrier offense, the momentum of the game continued to go against Lafayette.  Less than 30 seconds later, Watson connected with Dieudonn√© for an alley-oop to take a 52-31 point lead, appearing to be an early dagger.
For the rest of the half, Jones and his club had to find the balance between saving energy for Saturday’s possible semifinal matchup and keeping the foot on the gas pedal to close out the Leopards.
The Terriers did not falter, though, holding onto their big lead to defeat Lafayette 91-54 and win their first-ever Patriot League Tournament contest.  With the win, the Terriers will host the U.S. Military Academy in the semifinal round of the tournament Saturday at 3 p.m.
“The last time we played Lafayette we were able to sustain our effort,” Jones said. “To be able to do it again shows that we’ve taken another step in the right direction.”

Irving, Watson lead Terriers in playoff win

By Jacklyn Bamberger/DFP Staff
Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, the Boston University men’s basketball team has relied upon the play of its backcourt. Wednesday’s Patriot League quarterfinal matchup against Lafayette College was no exception, as sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., and senior guard D.J. Irving led the team to a 91-54 victory.
Watson came into the contest riding a successful regular season, leading BU (23-9, 15-3 Patriot League) in points per game (13.7), steals (2.2) and assists (6.6).
While Irving has had a quieter season than Watson statistically, the tri-captain has been a leader for the Terriers, inspiring underclassmen with his work ethic.
Earlier this week, Watson and Irving were rewarded for their efforts when the Patriot League announced yearly awards. Watson was the lone Terrier selected to the All-Patriot League First Team, while Irving was a representative on the All-Second Team.
BU coach Joe Jones said there are advantages to having the backcourt.
“That’s been the luxury of having [Watson and Irving],” Jones said. “There aren’t too many teams in the country that have two guards that can do what they can do. It’s why we’re a unique team and it’s why we’re a dangerous team. If Mo gets in foul trouble, D.J. steps in and does a great job. Those guys can also play together. “
Irving said the team came into the matchup with the Leopards (11-20, 6-12 Patriot League) looking to send a message to the Patriot League.
“We feel like we’re the best team in this league and we know that having a No. 1 seed is important, especially in this tournament when you’re the top seed, you play every game at home,” Irving said. “We definitely wanted to make a statement.”
Against the Leopards, the duo validated their accolades with stellar play. Watson started things early, slashing through the Lafayette defense to score eight points in the opening five minutes. Not to be outdone, Irving stole the ball from center Nathaniel Musters and drove the length of the court for a layup to give BU a 10-5 lead.
When the Terriers started to pull away from the Leopards midway through the first, Watson and Irving made sure that BU stayed focused. After freshman guard Cedric Hankerson drained a 3-pointer to give the Terriers a 22-13 advantage, Watson played lockdown defense, forcing his man to dribble out of bounds. Though Lafayette cut the Terrier lead to 10 with just over six minutes remaining in the half, Irving re-energized the team by knocking down a 3-pointer.
Watson’s confidence in his teammates was on full display when he dished the ball to senior guard Travis Robinson who lined up for a 3-point shot. Before the ball even left Robinson’s hands, Watson held up three fingers in celebration. Sure enough, the ball went in.
“That’s how I feel every time one of my teammates shoots,” Watson said about the moment. “I have the utmost confidence that every time I give these guys the ball, and they put it up, it’s going in.”
At the break, Watson led all players with 15 points to go along with four assists and two rebounds. Irving added nine points of his own.
To start the second half, Irving played a perfect pass to senior forward Dom Morris, who laid the ball in for the first points of the frame. Two minutes later, Morris received a beautiful feed, this time from Watson, to extend the Terrier lead to 46-29 with 17:20 remaining.
On the next BU possession, Watson hit a contested mid-range jumper and at the other end of the court, he grabbed a rebound off of a missed 3-point attempt from guard Bryce Scott and sank a layup to complete the four-point swing.
In addition to providing points, Watson and Irving also catalyzed the play of their teammates. One of the most electrifying moments of the game came at the 7:03 mark when Watson threw the ball up for sophomore forward Justin Alston to slam into the basket.
Watson ended the night close to a triple-double, garnering 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Irving had 17 points, two rebounds and three assists.
“He’s gonna get it,” Irving said about Watson’s search for the illusive triple-double. “Especially now, come playoff time. That’s when big time players have big time games.”
Conversely, Watson praised Irving’s effort in the game.
“D.J.’s our veteran,” Waston said. “He’s our captain and our go-to guy. For me to be able to sit down and for him to shine the way he did, it just gets the rest of the team going. When you see one person coming out and playing hard, the rest of the team thrives off of that.”

PHOTOS & VIDEOS: BU defeats Lafayette 91-54 in Patriot League Quarterfinal

Post Game Press Conference Videos

BU:

 

 Lafayette:

 

 Photos (By Michelle Jay/DFP Staff)

 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Men’s basketball claims 3 Patriot League awards

By Christopher Dela Rosa/DFP Staff
The Patriot League announced Monday that three players from the Boston University men’s basketball team were awarded All-Conference accolades for their stellar play throughout the regular season.
Sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., senior guard and tri-captain D.J. Irving and freshman guard Cedric Hankerson were chosen to represent the Terriers (22-9, 15-3 Patriot League).
“I was really happy for those guys,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “It is well deserved, they worked hard, and it’s a nice accomplishment for them.”
Watson, after a solid sophomore campaign, was the only Terrier selected to the All-Patriot League First Team. Despite standing at just 5-foot-10, Watson used his crafty ball-handling skills and speed to either elude defenders or dish the ball to his teammates. For this reason he led the team with 13.4 points per game and led the entire Patriot League with 6.6 assists per game.
Meanwhile, Watson’s senior counterpart in Irving, the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year, was named to the conference second team. Irving has been a staple of the BU offense, making big shots down the stretch. During his last year in the scarlet and white, Irving has tallied 12.3 points per game to go along with an impressive 80.7 percent shooting from the charity stripe.
In the Terriers’ last game, Irving hit two free throws in the closing seconds on the road against College of the Holy Cross Saturday to give BU a four-point lead. Irving’s makes would not only seal the game, but the Patriot League regular-season title. After the game ended, Irving became only the second-ever player at BU to log over 4,000 career minutes.
“Mo [Watson] and D.J. are one of the best backcourts in the country, they’ve been the primary ball-handlers on our team and we’ve been successful,” said BU senior guard Travis Robinson. “It’s well-deserved, their first and second team selections.”
Hankerson, a first-year player, was named to the All-Rookie Team. During conference play, he made a name for himself, hitting a number of contested 3-pointers that either kept BU in close games or was the spark the team needed to get a run going. Coming off of the bench, he averaged 6.1 points per game. One of Hankerson’s biggest contributions came in the Terriers’ win over the University of Maryland on Dec. 21. In that game, he tallied 14 points and seven rebounds.
Senior forward Dom Morris said the awards for the three players were well-deserved after the solid seasons they had.
“I’m extremely happy for them,” said senior forward Dom Morris. “It’s a big accomplishment. It says something about our program to have three guys on there. They credit the team, but we credit them too because without them, we wouldn’t be where we are

Monday, March 3, 2014

Men’s basketball earns No. 1 seed in Patriot League Tournament

By Christopher Deal Rosa/DFP Staff
WORCESTER – Coming into Saturday’s matchup against the College of the Holy Cross, the Boston University men’s basketball team had a lot at stake. A win would clinch the regular season Patriot League title and guarantee home-court advantage throughout the upcoming Patriot League Tournament.
Aided by the performances of senior forward Dom Morris and senior guard D.J. Irving, the Terriers (22-9, 15-3 Patriot League) got past the Crusaders (18-12, 12-6 Patriot League),68-64, to secure the program’s first-ever regular-season Patriot League championship.
“It’s fitting, the way the season’s gone for us that we had to persevere [to win],” said BU coach Joe Jones.
Much of the game’s momentum shifted back-and-forth between the two squads.  At the 12:12 mark of the first half, the Terriers jumped ahead of the Crusaders 15-7 after a 3-pointer from freshman guard Cedric Hankerson, but were unable to keep the stretch going.
With a 3-pointer from the top of the key and a layup make, senior guard and captain Dave Dudzinksi started a 13-2 Crusaders run that would put them ahead of BU by three points with 6:15 to go in the half. In the first, the senior scored 14 points and went 6-of-9 from the field.
“I wasn’t pleased that he was scoring as much, but I was more concerned about us offensively,” Jones said. “They were dictating what we were doing offensively with their defense, they were pushing us out, denying passes, and so we had a hard time getting into a rhythm offensively and even though we had the lead, I didn’t think we were playing with a rhythm.”
For the remainder of the frame, the two teams went shot-for-shot, but the Terriers ultimately got the best of the Crusaders thanks to the play of Irving. In a span of 25 seconds, Irving sank two free throws, grabbed a defensive rebound on the ensuing Holy Cross possession and laid the ball in on a fast break to give BU a 30-25 lead with 54 seconds remaining.
On the final Holy Cross possession, the Crusaders answered, as guard Justin Burrell drained a 3-pointer to end the half with the score 30-28 in favor of the Terriers.
Led by Dudzinski at the start of the second half, the Crusaders went ahead 43-38 with 15:56 remaining in the game. To make matters worse, sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., also picked up his fourth personal foul, which forced him to take a seat on the bench.
Following Watson’s exit, sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonne and senior guard Travis Robinson stepped in and hit crucial 3-pointers that helped BU go on a 10-0 run to take a 48-43 lead with 12:36 left.
Holy Cross would not go down quietly though, and a 3-pointer by freshman Malachi Alexander put the Crusaders behind 66-64 with 1:46 to play.  On the following BU possession, Watson carried the ball down and drove to the hoop.  Watson’s shot did not fall, but he was able to grab the rebound, allowing the Terriers to kill more time off the clock.
With 58.7 seconds left, Jones called a timeout to settle down his team. After running the clock down, sophomore guard John Papale took a contested jumper from the corner that did not fall.
On the other end, with about 15 seconds remaining in the contest, freshman Anthony Thompson tried to put a shot up against Morris, who stonewalled the guard, forcing him to drop the ball, resulting in a Robinson steal. The ball was kicked out to Irving, who was subsequently fouled with 8.7 seconds left. The senior ended up hitting two free throws, sealing the Terrier victory.
“I like that moment,” Irving said of being on the foul line. “That moment is the time where I thrive, I don’t really feel pressure at those times, I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do, so I go out there and do it.”
Irving ended the game with 15 points to go along with five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Morris added 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
With the win, BU will take on the winner of the game between Loyola University-Maryland and Lafayette College in the quarterfinal roundWednesday night at Agganis Arena.
Morris said the clinching of the regular-season title was an important achievement for the team.
“I would say we should allow ourselves to pat ourselves on the back,” Morris said. “It’s a great accomplishment no matter what conference, level or division you’re in.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Army poses big threat for BU’s Patriot League playoff seed

By Christopher Dela Rosa/DFP Staff

With two games remaining in the regular season, the stakes are high as the Boston University men’s basketball team clings to its first-place spot in the Patriot League while preparing to play in the Patriot League Tournament next week.
Last Sunday, the Terriers (20-9, 13-3 Patriot League) hosted Bucknell University on Senior Day at Agganis Arena.  It was a bitter day for the Terriers and their three seniors, as BU gave up a nine-point second-half lead and found itself on the wrong end of the 63-53 final score.
Wednesday night, BU has to take on another tough opponent as it travels down to West Point, N.Y., to take on the U.S. Military Academy.
“It’s going to be like every game we’ve had this year,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “It’s going to be highly-contested. Both teams are going to play extremely hard and do what they think they need to do to win.”
The last time the Black Knights (13-14, 9-7 Patriot League) and Terriers faced off, BU held a 22-point lead with 16:48 remaining in the game.  Led by senior guard D.J. Irving, who had one of his best performances of the year with 22 points, the Terriers were on course to run away with a victory over Army.
In the ensuing minutes, however, BU saw its lead slowly slip away. As the clock struck zero, D.J. Irving — who had just missed a contested fade away jumper from the free-throw line — picked himself up and prepared for another five minutes of basketball.
Midway through the overtime period, Army picked up its first lead of the game, jumping ahead of the Terriers by a point.  In the remaining minute-and-a-half, the Terriers were able to clamp down defensively and force turnovers, which led to multiple free-throw attempts to give BU the 86-81 victory.
If this previous meeting is any indication, the Black Knights will likely put up a strong fight throughout the contest.  Should the Patriot League Tournament begin today, Army would have the No. 5 seed in the playoffs and be forced to travel to No. 4 seed Bucknell (14-13, 9-7 Patriot League).  Until the seeding and standings are decided, though, both teams will be fighting to get home-court advantage for the quarterfinal round of the tournament and will look to close out the season with a few victories.
Meanwhile, the Terriers are looking to get back on track and pick up some momentum for a potential run at their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2010-11 season.
D.J. Irving, who was battling the flu before Sunday’s loss, will be in much better shape than he was just a few days ago.  However, another player the Terriers need to be at his best over the next few weeks is senior forward Dom Morris.
Morris started off the year red hot, scoring in double figures in the first three games of the season. He seemed poised to continue, and possibly improve upon, his impressive performance during his junior season last year.  Unfortunately for the Terriers, he has been inconsistent the past few games. In BU’s game against American University, the forward put in 16 points and seven rebounds in the win. The next game, though, he only scored six points.
The Terriers could certainly benefit from improved play from the senior as BU goes into a high-pressure tournament setting where any game could be the last game.
Despite clinching home-court advantage through the semifinals, the next two games are crucial for the Terriers as they pursue its first Patriot League title in March.  With the conference tournament looming, Jones said he is taking it one game at a time, keeping his focus on Wednesday’s contest against Army.
“I am confident that my guys will be ready to go tomorrow,” Jones said.