With two consecutive losses and the final six games of its season looming over its head, the Boston University men’s basketball team made a statement against the University of New Hampshire that its been looking to make since starting conference play – the Terriers belong at the top of the America East.
The Terriers were heard loud and clear in BU’s 69-47 demolition of the Wildcats at Agganis Arena Thursday night. After a string of poor-shooting games, junior John Holland and sophomore Jake O’Brien were decidedly back to their usual scoring ways, scoring 23 and 15, respectively. But it was senior Tyler Morris’ first full game back from a broken hand that truly seemed to reenergize the Terriers – he scored 12 and had several key steals.
“I think we built off of each other tonight,” Morris said. “When one guy made a hard play, the other guys got more energetic. And when another guy made another play, four other guys were giving him high-fives. We just built on each other, it was exciting to play that way.”
Free throw shooting made the difference down the stretch for the Terriers – Holland (10-for-12), O’Brien (8-for-10) and Morris (3-for-3) all shot above 80 percent from the charity stripe.
However, it was the Terriers’ defense latching a stranglehold on the Wildcats near the 10-minute mark of the first half that truly sealed the victory. The same UNH team that scored 19 to start the game scored just seven more points for the final seven minutes of the half. And that’s a testament to BU denying open shots, not just sloppy work on the Wildcats’ part.
“When they got down 10, they played with way more urgency and purpose and toughness than we did,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said in the postgame press conference. “And I think that was the difference in the game. And then I think we turned it over to start our first two possessions to start the second half. Then, the floodgates opened.”
BU entered the break leading 28-26. In the final minute of the half, Holland intercepted a bad pass and took it down the court to jam home a huge dunk, securing the Terriers’ lead. But UNH guard Alvin Abreu made a floater from the paint to cut the lead to two.
A wild scramble for the ball as time expired caused a scare for the Terriers – Lowe was slow to get up and hobbled off the court. However, he was still dressed by the start of the second.
Morris showed why BU has missed him so badly during his nearly month-long absence. Early in the second half, the senior stole the ball on a bad UNH lob pass and took the rock down the court.
He tried to set up Holland for an easy rebound, but the Wildcats’ defense was quick to get back down the court and deny the shot attempt. Toeing the backcourt line, Holland dished the ball back to Morris, who made the wide-open 3-pointer. The resulting fist pump may have just signaled, “I’m back,” to his team and the fans at Agganis.
For Morris, though, the moment was not just about himself.
“It was really more than me hitting the three, it was just really about the way we were playing at the point in the game,” Morris said. “Our whole team felt that it was important to come out in the second half and build on what we did in the first half and carry that on.
“And I felt like that 3 gave us a little bit of momentum, and I was just excited about the run we were about to go on.”
The Terriers’ most prolific scorers, Lowe and Holland, took over down the stretch, helping their team to leads as large as 25. Lowe found his shot – at 8:20, he went up and through two defenders to hit a 3-pointer.
Almost as if to communicate his dominance over the UNH defense, Holland pushed from the left corner, around and over a defender to slam home another dunk. With the lead over 20 by that point, the message was already more than clear – the Terriers would not start the final stretch of their season with another loss.