By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff
Looking to extend a season-high four-game win streak and keep hope alive for a possible regular-season conference title, the Boston University men’s basketball team routed the University of Maryland-Baltimore County 85-53 on Tuesday at Agganis Arena.
Utilizing a one-two scoring punch of senior forward John Holland and junior guard Darryl Partin that UMBC coach Randy Monroe called “the best in the conference,” the Terriers (15-13, 10-4 America East) recorded their second-highest point total of the season to dispatch the Retrievers (5-22, 4-10 AE).
Holland led the scoring for BU with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, while Partin added 23 points. As a whole, the team – ranked 320th in Division I in field goal percentage entering the game – shot an even 50 percent from the field.
“It was important for these guys to get better today, that was the goal, and to prove to each other they can play hard for more than 30 minutes,” said BU coach Patrick Chambers.
After being dealt a crushing 71-67 loss to the then-last place Retrievers on Jan. 17 in Baltimore, a game in which BU led by nine with just 4:45 to play in the game, the Terriers came out with a vengeance, rushing out to an early 21-11 lead a mere nine minutes into the game.
Frustration mounted for the visitors as Monroe was issued a technical foul following a turnover by forward Laurence Jolicoeur that Monroe thought was a defensive foul.
Monroe, widely known for his fiery and animated sideline demeanor, insisted after the game that he was trying to light a proverbial fire under his team after a slow start.
“My guys are kind of the direct opposite of me,” Monroe said. “If they had my fire, I don’t think we’d be 5-22, I’ll tell you that right now.”
If anything, the move backfired as BU rattled off six unanswered points to take a commanding 16-point lead from which it would not look back as the game moved forward.
Behind a balanced scoring attack, the Terriers headed into the locker room at halftime nursing a comfortable 42-24 lead
Spearheaded by Holland and Partin, BU continued to have its way in the second half, holding UMBC to 33 percent shooting while never letting its lead get below 18 points.
By the time the final buzzer sounded and the fans cleared their seats at Agganis Arena, the Terriers had won their fifth straight and avenged perhaps their ugliest, most humiliating defeat of the season in convincing fashion.
Much of the Terriers’ success on the defensive end – holding UMBC to 53 points on 36.4 percent shooting – came from the team’s ability to neutralize Retriever point guard Chris De La Rosa. De La Rosa, who entered the game averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 assists per game, was limited to 11 points and three assists on 4-of-13 shooting and forced into committing five turnovers.
Additionally, the Terriers maintained an overwhelming advantage on the boards, a facet of the game in which the team has struggled for much of the season. BU outrebounded UMBC, 44-29, with an 18-11 advantage on offensive rebounds that translated into an 18-8 edge on second-chance points.
At the heart of this rebounding resurgence was junior forward Patrick Hazel who, along with eight points, posted a game-high 12 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end.
“It’s nice to see him playing with confidence, and he’s got to keep that going and keep getting better every single day,” Chambers said of Hazel.
Entering the game as the conference’s leading scorer with 19 points per game, Holland carved holes in the UMBC defense, going 8-of-10 from inside the 3-point arc. He said his shooting performance was part of an overall team effort to try to avoid settling for 3-pointers too often.
In the wake of the season-ending injury to junior forward Jake O’Brien, Partin’s performance on Tuesday night was indicative of an assertive effort to be a reliable No. 2 scoring option for the team. Chambers acknowledged that Partin has come a long way since the beginning of the season to become the player that he is today.
“He’s definitely matured and his game has developed as well,” Chambers said. “On and off the floor, you’re seeing a guy who’s really starting to really mature into a man, and he’s really bought in and he’s trying to be a leader now too. It’s great to see his growth, it really is.”
The win over the Retrievers gives the Terriers an 8-0 home record in AE Conference play, the first time BU has finished conference play undefeated at home since the 1997-98 season.
Sitting only two games behind the University of Vermont in the conference standings with only two games remaining before the AE tournament, Chambers insists that his team – despite its recent period of success – still has work to do if it wants to achieve its ultimate goals by season’s end.
“For us to be the best team we can be by the end of the year, we still have a lot of work to do,” Chambers said. “This is nice, don’t get me wrong, but we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of growing to do.”