By Luke Coughlan/DFP Staff
When his Boston University men's basketball team was down by one point with three seconds remaining on the clock, coach Patrick Chambers knew better than to call a play that didn’t give the ball to senior forward John Holland. And so, true to the form that he had demonstrated all night long, Holland drove the ball all the way across the court, stopped on a dime and let go of a 30-foot shot that had the arc and soft touch of any shot that ought to swish through the netting and steal a win for the home team. It looked good. It looked very good. But it wasn’t.
Holland’s final bid at the buzzer rattled in and out of the basket and sealed the game against Quinnipiac University as yet another close loss for the Terriers (5-8) by a final score of 82-81. Five of BU’s eight losses have now come by a combined margin of 10 points. As gut-wrenching, one-possession defeats continue to pile up, frustration does as well.
“It was a great game from a fan’s perspective,” Chambers said. “Disappointing for us. We’ve got to be able to get stops. We’ve got to be able to rebound. We can’t give up eighty-something points. It’s just not good enough. Somebody had to lose this game. It was unfortunate it was us.
“Hopefully we learn from it. […] We’ve lost too many games by one possession or less. It’s hard to take. It’s hard to stomach. But, we’ve got to keep at ‘em.”
Holland had put his team on his back all night long. He led all scorers with 31 points and his team with nine rebounds while shooting 9-for-19 from the floor and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. From his first shot of the night – a 3 from atop the arc that sparked a 7-0 BU run to start things off – the star player was clicking on all cylinders.
The trouble for BU was finding a partner in crime to assist Holland in the effort. At the beginning of the game, junior forward Jake O’Brien seemed to fit the bill. He hit a layup and two short jumpers while recording a block before registering his first miss. His jumper from the paint only 2:58 into the game pushed him to the 1000-point plateau. He is the 31st Terrier to reach the milestone.
From then on, the big man cooled off considerably, scoring his next shot with 4:40 remaining in the first half and shooting 5-for-13 for the remainder of the contest. However, O’Brien did perform in clutch situations at the end of the game, nailing a crucial 3-point shot a foot beyond the arc to give the Terriers a one-point lead with 1:28 remaining, 79-78.
On the ensuing possession, the Terriers corralled a tough defensive rebound off of a missed 3-pointer only to have to ball stolen from Holland by junior guard James Johnson. Freshman guard D.J. Irving committed a smart foul to force the Bobcats (8-2) to earn the points from the line, but Johnson responded and QU retook the lead with 37 seconds remaining.
Irving drove the lane after a timeout but couldn’t get his layup to fall. Freshman forward Dom Morris snagged the rebound and scored on the putback to put the pressure back on the Bobcats. It was 81-80 with 25 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, the Bobcats managed to work the ball inside and senior guard Deontay Twyman took a short jumper. Freshman guard Dominique Langston went up with the shot and as the ball bounced off of the rim, he put it right back in with three seconds remaining. The play set the stage for a Terrier timeout and Holland’s final shot.
“It felt like [the shot] was pretty good,” a downcast Holland said. “But, it rimmed out, so … it’s just the way the ball bounces.”
Chambers recounted his decision to give Holland the final shot of the game.
“He’s our senior,” he said. “You’ve got to go down with your senior. He took a good shot. He just got it off, just in time. One more dribble, one more second, and it would have been no good [from the release]. But it was right there. But, that kind of just tells you where we are. For them it goes in, and for us it doesn’t. They’re more together. We have to get more together.”
The Terriers ran out to an early lead against a tough QU team with a 14-4 run to open the game. With 15:46 remaining in the first half, the Terriers were shooting an efficient 6-for-7 to the Bobcats’ 2-of-9 clip. But, the Bobcats chipped away at the Terriers’ lead and kept the game within reach, cutting the deficit to one on a sophomore guard Dave Johnson jumper with seven seconds remaining in the half.
The second half proved to be a back and forth battle, with the Terriers sporting a diverse offense that was hitting 3s, mixing in jumpers and drives to the hoop, while the Bobcats continued to pound away down low. BU broke the 80-point plateau for the third time this season and the second in as many games, but their defense faced a tough task against the Bobcats.
QU leads the nation in rebounding and offensive rebounds and despite the fact that those statistics may be inflated due to an easy schedules, the Bobcats exerted their abilities on the boards against the Terriers.
It took all the Terriers could muster to finish just four boards shy of the Bobcats, 46-42. Many a time on the night, extended battles over rebounds took place that often resulted in fouls or jump balls. The Terriers deserve credit for their effort on the boards, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Bobcats out of the basket.
Senior forward Justin Rutty posted a double double by leading the Bobcats in points and rebounds with 26 and 10 respectively. Of those 26 points, each and every one came from the paint or the free throw line. QU held a 44-28 advantage for points in the paint, a statistic that speaks for itself.
“We didn’t get enough stops,” Chambers said. “You can’t outscore people and expect to do anything in the America East [Conference]. The non-conference we set up, it’s hard. There’s no doubt about it. But, it’s to prepare us for the America East. If we can’t get stops, we’re going home early. We’re not going to be successful, especially on the road. You’ve got to get stops. We didn’t get stops against [St. Joseph’s University], either. They scored 79 points. Got to get stops. Got to rebound. If we don’t start doing that, it’s going to be a long year.”
Irving was the Terrier’s third best scorer, pouring in 14 points on a 4-for-11 shooting performance. He had success driving past defenders and using his speed to get to the basket and draw fouls, but all four of his 3-point attempts were wide open and all of them missed the mark.
Senior forward Jeff Pelage played 22 minutes in his first game back from an ankle injury. He recorded one steal, four rebounds, and his first two points of the season on the night while committing four personal fouls as well.
Quinnipiac was picked to win the Northeast Division and was riding a four-game winning streak coming into the game at Case Gymnasium, so the Terriers' ability to compete like they did against them is commendable. But with one game remaining against the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on New Years Eve before conference play starts in 2011, what the Terriers need more than great effort is simply wins.