Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sputtering offense, missed Irving free throws doom Terriers in overtime session

By René Reyes/DFP Staff

D.J. Irving and Darryl Partin sat next to their new coach Joe Jones in a media room a couple of floor levels below Case Gymnasium, their shoulders slumped, their heads down, their faces expressionless.

The sophomore and senior guards dropped 17 and 25 points, respectively, and accounted for eight of the Boston University men’s basketball team’s 10 points in overtime against Northeastern University.

Unfortunately for Irving and Partin, their offensive contributions fell to the wayside, as the Huskies (1-0) outscored the Terriers (0-1) 18-10 in that extra session and pulled away late for an 82-74 victory Friday night.

Despite trailing 62-51 with 4:53 remaining in this bitter, emotionally filled tilt, BU mounted a furious comeback and scored 13 of the contest’s next 15 points to tie it at 64 apiece. On the Terriers’ second-to-last opportunity to eke out a win, senior guard Matt Griffin drove and dished it out to Irving, whose shot was emphatically blocked out of bounds by guard Jonathan Lee.

With 1.1 seconds to go, Irving lobbed the ball to Patrick Hazel, but the 6-foot-6 senior forward couldn’t convert on the alley-oop feed near the basket, sending both teams' season opener into overtime.

On the possession before that, though, the play wasn’t originally designed for Irving to take a potential game-winning spot-up 3-pointer by the left wing.

“It was set up for Matt Griffin,” Irving said, “but he was covered so he drove and kicked it.”

For a Terrier offense that caught fire in the final 4:53 of regulation with 12 unanswered points at one juncture, it suddenly went cold and sputtered in overtime, missing 5-of-9 shots from the field and both 3-point attempts.

Following a Hazel lay-in and four points from Partin on two free throws and a transition bucket, Irving recorded a steal and took it the length of the court for an easy deuce. BU found itself ahead 72-69 with 2:16 to play.

But Northeastern buckled down on defense in the extra frame and outscored Jones’ squad 13-2 the rest of the way with its defense driving the NU offense.

Lee forced a Griffin turnover in front of BU's bench and connected with forward Kashief Edwards on an alley-oop dunk, punctuating Northeastern's game-sealing 9-0 run. Edwards netted four points, including the two-handed flush that shook The Roof off its foundations, Lee chipped in two points and guards Quincy Ford and Alwayne Bigby contributed three total points in that decisive stretch for the Huskies.

“We lost the lead but I still felt pretty good,” said Northeastern coach Bill Coen. “We were playing pretty well. I thought our defense could step up and it did and that’s what we were priding ourselves on – getting stops and getting rebounds. … For the most part, we worked really hard on the defensive end.”

The Terriers had their share of offensive struggles in overtime and went scoreless for two minutes and four seconds after Irving's fast-break bucket. His right-handed layup in the period’s closing seconds ended the scoring drought, but the outcome had already been long decided.

It certainly didn’t help BU’s cause either when, coming out of a timeout and BU behind by one point with less than a minute remaining, sophomore forward Dom Morris, who was 0-for-4 from 3-point range before the shot, chucked up an ill-advised 3 from the corner. The play wasn’t drawn up for Morris to shoot the trey, Jones admitted, with Irving or Partin being the logical choices since they had the hot hands.

Partin said Friday’s contest was the Terriers’ for the taking, especially after they had rallied from a double-digit deficit to force overtime.

“The game was there,” Partin said. “It was there for us. In overtime, we were just focused defensively and just crashing the boards and stuff like that. We’re not really worried about the offensive end too much because that’s just going to flow. You’re going to make and miss shots sometimes.”

Irving, one of BU’s most consistent free-throw shooters last season with a .845 clip, came up empty on four freebies in his 38 minutes on the court, including two crucial misses in the extra period with the Terriers clinging to a one-point edge. He was at a loss for words for his off night from the charity stripe.

“I missed a lot,” Irving said. “I think I missed about six of them. I don’t know what was going on to be honest. I just missed them.”

Heralded freshmen Zach Chionuma (eights minutes) and James Kennedy (nine minutes) played sparingly in their collegiate debuts. Jones opted to go with his more experienced players during crunch time and overtime since the two rookies are still learning the ropes of the college game.

“Tonight, we wanted to go with our veterans down the stretch for sure,” Jones said.

Jones remained positive afterward in spite of the disappointing overtime loss.

“I thought our guys showed great promise,” Jones said. “They battled back and showed the heart of a champion, coming back and getting this thing into overtime. We had a couple of chances here and things fall our way, we’re sitting here smiling. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. There were some things that we have to get better at, but also I thought there were some things we did pretty well.”

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