By Luke Coughlan/DFP Staff
There were ten minutes left in the game when it happened.
The Boston University men’s basketball team had been playing catch-up all night long on Thursday in their matchup with Stony Brook University. The Seawolves (7-11, 2-4 America East) stole the lead from the beginning and had kept a firm grip on it.
The Terriers (9-11, 4-2 AE) battled, watching the point deficit shrink and grow from 10 to one to seven to one to nine and back to four. They had come close, but had never led, and they were desperate for the go-ahead shot that had been so elusive all game long. After all, time was running out.
It was at this critical juncture that senior forward John Holland did what he does best. He slung his team onto his back, sized up his shot, and took over.
Holland rattled off all 13 of the Terriers’ next thirteen points in a 13-2 run that gave the Terriers a 56-49 lead with 6:51 remaining in the game. BU would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the contest en route to a 67-62 victory that had Holland’s name all over it.
“Tonight BU certainly had the best player on the floor,” SBU coach Steve Pikiell said. “What a luxury that it. John Holland was terrific. We tried four different guys guarding him. We did a great job defending, but we couldn’t stop him, and I thought that was the difference in the game: they have John Holland, and we don’t.”
Holland finished with 29 points on a 9-of-17 shooting performance from the floor, and a 5-of-9 mark from beyond the arc. The game marks Holland’s fifth in a row in which he has scored 20 points or more, a new career record for the senior.
“We were fortunate that John got hot,” BU coach Patrick Chambers said. “He carried us. He put us on his back. We’re lucky to have John.”
The Seawolves held the star forward in check to open the contest by only allowing him to score nine points in the first half and forcing him to pick up two quick fouls in the opening minutes of the second stanza.
To that point, Holland was shooting 4-of-9 and only 1-of-4 in the second half. He went to the bench with three fouls and 14:38 to play. When Holland returned with ten minutes remaining, he just couldn’t miss.
“I got my third foul and I was out for a little while, so when I got back I wanted to be a little more aggressive, and hopefully get us ahead,” Holland said. “Fortunately, I was able to do that. Some shots went in today, so that was good.”
Holland opened the run with a jumper and a three pointer to cut the lead to one, and then stuck another trey with 8:00 remaining to give his team their first lead of the game, 51-49.
After a media timeout, Holland stole the ball from junior guard Bryan Dougher at half court and finished with a two-hand slam to the delight of the home crowd. The senior banked in a trey on his next possession to give the Terriers a seven point lead.
“I wanted to remain aggressive throughout, especially those crucial times when the team needed me to step up and stay aggressive,” he said. “That will help us finish out some of these games. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes for us to win. That’s what it took today.”
Chambers knew that he needed to keep going to his senior when he came back into the game.
“He was in foul trouble,” he said. “His shooting was off. I just told him, ‘you’ve got to get aggressive. Don’t worry about it.’ And we called his number a lot more, and we opened up the floor for him. He took advantage of that, which is great.”
The Terriers are 4-1 in their last five games, all of which saw Holland score 20 or more points. In each situation, Holland had or shared the game-high for points. What are the reasons for Holland’s string of successful performances?
“Teammates getting me open shots, finding me,” he said. “Definitely [freshman guard] D.J. [Irving]. Other guys. It’s just remaining aggressive. We have some injuries, so maybe with [junior forward Jake [O’Brien out, you try] to be more aggressive. I’m trying to play the best I can and do whatever the team needs.”
SBU had not allowed a sixty point performance by any team for eight games before Thursday night. While Holland was the main cog in BU’s offensive machine in the contest, a change in offensive rhythm is what allowed him to score like he did.
“We opened up the floor and went to our motion offense a little bit just to get them moving side to side because they do such a good job of playing five guys against the ball,” Chambers said. “So when you get them moving side to side, you get lanes where you can drive. I think D.J. took advantage of that, kicking out for threes, and John took advantage of that [as well].”
The Terriers also tightened up their defensive play once Holland's run began, holding the Seawolves to 3-of-15 from the floor in the final ten minutes of the game. Holland also pulled down seven rebounds, second only to junior forward Patrick Hazel's eight, and recorded a game high three steals.