By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff
It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t always effective, but ultimately, the Boston University men’s basketball team was able to perform well enough to claw back from a second half deficit to put away Binghamton University 71-66 Wednesday night at Agganis Arena.
Junior guard Darryl Partin scored 13 second-half points en route to a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds to help the Terriers (10-12, 5-3 America East) pull away from a persistent Bearcat (6-15, 3-5 AE) squad.
“We took another step in the right direction tonight,” said BU head coach Pat Chambers.
Throughout much of the game, it was never entirely certain whether the Terriers would indeed take that step, or rather revert to many of the bad habits that have plagued them throughout the season, particularly in close conference losses to University of Hartford and University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
BU came out playing intense and spirited basketball, using a tough defense and some solid shooting to build a 12-4 lead just over four minutes into the game. However, Binghamton quickly responded to the early blitz by going on a 24-7 run keyed by a shooting exhibition from senior forward Mahamoud Jabbi, taking a 28-19 lead with six minutes remaining in the half.
Jabbi finished with a game-high 10 rebounds and 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
“Jabbi was terrific,” Chambers said. “He really improved his game from last year.”
The Terriers would finish the half strong and regain the lead going into the half, up 33-32.
Throughout the second half, the game remained close as neither team would lead by more than six points. Binghamton held a 62-56 advantage with seven minutes remaining.
From that point forward, the Terriers capitalized on a shooting drought from Binghamton to score 11 unanswered points. The Bearcats were able to bring the deficit back within one possession, trailing 69-66 with the ball and 21 seconds left. But after a pair of timeouts and missed 3-point attempts from Jabbi and forward Moussa Camara, BU regained possession and, with two made free throws from freshman forward Dom Morris, solidified the win.
Senior forward John Holland overcame a slow start and below-average game overall to key the late BU run, and ended up with 16 points on 3-of-11 shooting (9-of-10 on free throws) and six rebounds.
After the game, Chambers acknowledged that the Terriers will need stronger performances from Holland if the team hopes to be in contention for the conference title.
“We need him. It was nice to win without him, but we need him,” he said. “We need him to be great – he’s a senior, he’s got to get it done.”
Morris, coming back recently from a non-basketball related surgery, helped control the BU frontcourt, scoring 15 points, even displaying his range by going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, and tallying five rebounds.
With junior forward Jake O’Brien out for the last several weeks with an ankle injury and with junior center Jeff Pelage still hobbled by an early season ailment, BU played for much of the game with a four-guard lineup.
Often playing with only one conventional big man, the emphasis on strong interior defense and rebounding became that much more crucial for the Terriers, particularly in the second half as the teams repeatedly exchanged leads.
“Defending and rebounding is what wins games,” Partin said. “That’s what we’ve been taught and that’s what we do.”
Already plagued by injuries for much of the season, the Terriers were dealt another loss when freshman guard/forward Travis Robinson suffered a broken nose that will keep him sidelined for what Chambers estimated as three weeks.
The Terriers will look to continue to build on the momentum generated by Wednesday night’s win as they travel north to take on the University of New Hampshire. BU defeated the Wildcats 61-54 in Case Gymnasium on January 2, and since that win, New Hampshire has suspended the team’s leading rebounder, center Dane Diliegro, for the remainder of the season.
Going forward, the team is prepared for the in-conference challenges that await them, knowing that while the games may be grueling at times, the team will have to continue to improve and reinforce good play if it hopes to live up to its preseason billing.
“Tonight was another America East battle for us,” Chambers said. “I told the team, that’s how it’s going to be for us every single game. Every single game is going to be a battle. We’ve just got to keep getting better and create good habits.”