By René Reyes/DFP Staff
He's known primarily as a perimeter shooter, who has the forte to slash apart defenses. As the Boston University men's basketball team's No. 1 offensive weapon, the 6-foot-6 senior swingman is averaging 23.9 points per game, which ranks him fifth in the nation, by raining in contested jumpers from all spots on the floor and converting layups in traffic – a lethal combination for any college player.
He's led the Terriers (4-4) in scoring in seven of their first eight contests and netted 20-plus points in six straight games, all coming against rigorous competition in BU's non-conference slate, including a season-high 29-point outburst at Cornell University on Nov. 20.
Yet, Partin's greatest strength can also be his greatest weakness, admits BU coach Joe Jones.
Partin is attempting a team-high 18.5 shots per game – nearly eight shots more than sophomore point guard D.J. Irving is averaging – and can fall into the bad habit of forcing up shots when he's blanketed on defense, as he did on Wednesday in BU's 73-67 win over the University of Delaware when he missed a total of 14 shots.
The Seattle native possesses a shooter's mindset, Jones says, where every shot he takes, he thinks is going to fall in. But Jones has been making a concerted effort to help Partin realize that he'll get enough quality looks in a game to shoot a high percentage, but will need to learn to distribute the ball more often when he's doubled- or triple-teamed and make the teammates around him better.
In typical Partin fashion, he made only four of his first 15 attempts in Saturday's matinee affair at Boston College, but then erupted for 17 second-half points on 7-of-12 shooting to propel BU to a historic 75-61 victory over BC, its first win against its cross-town rival since 1974. Partin finished with a game-high 27 points and drained 10-of-22 shots to go along with four rebounds in 33 minutes.
Despite knocking down a triple on BU's second trip down the floor, Partin couldn't muster much else offensively in the first half. He did pace the Terriers early on with 10 points, but came up empty on an array of difficult jumpers, layups and floaters. In those first 20 minutes of play, Partin shot 3-of-10 from the field and connected on just 2-of-7 attempts from 3-point territory.
Partin's showing in that first session backed up what BC coach Steve Donahue had seen on film leading up to the tilt between his Atlantic Coast Conference team and Jones' America East squad.
“If you watched all the tape I had on that kid, the shots that kid makes, the range of difficulty is off the charts,” Donahue said. “The thing about him that makes him so dangerous is he may go 0-for-7 and hit the backboard, but the next time, it’s going up. I think that surprises his opponents still. You just can’t imagine the shots this kid takes.”
Boston College's interior defense had much to do with Partin's first-half struggles. He credited the Eagles' big men in 7-foot-0 freshman center Dennis Clifford and 6-foot-10 freshman center KC Caudill with forcing him into settling for mid-range and long-range jumpers.
For much of the contest, the Eagles' size and length disrupted Partin's offensive flow and prevented him from driving into the paint – something that he's accustomed to doing with reckless abandon.
But Partin stuck to his guns and kept doing what he does best – shoot the basketball.
“I missed a lot of shots in the first half,” Partin said. “I just stayed confident, kept shooting and just kept being aggressive. They really packed in inside, so it was a lot harder to get into the driving lanes, so I just shot a couple more shots.”
In the second half, Partin caught fire down the stretch and single-handedly carried the Terriers to their fourth straight win.
After BC guard Matt Humphrey's 3-pointer cut BU's advantage to three points midway through that frame, Partin responded by nailing three consecutive shots – two long jumpers from the left-elbow and a corner 3 – in a span of 56 seconds to pull BU ahead 58-48 with 7:27 remaining.
Since Partin had the hot-shooting hand, sophomore forward Travis Robinson, senior guard Matt Griffin and D.J. Irving kept feeding him the ball during his pivotal 7-0 run.
Donahue praised Partin even further by admiring the job Jones has done in getting his players to look to Partin as their primary option on the offensive end.
“I think Joe has done a great job with him,” Donahue said. “We were really running at him, and he was trying to pass, but his true colors are he’s going to shoot the ball. With all the other kids buying into what he is, I think that’s the key thing. [Sophomore forward] Dom Morris doesn’t mind chasing the balls down, the big guys don’t mind not scoring, D.J. doesn’t mind passing.
“That kid’s role is to shoot the basketball. Good teams are dangerous when everyone knows their roles.”
Jones couldn't help but also applaud Partin for his efforts and veteran leadership in those final eight-and-a-half minutes, during which he connected on six of his final seven shots to pull the momentum in BU's favor for good.
Partin has certainly made Jones' first year as the Terriers' coach a lot easier.
“He’s a terrific player,” Jones said. “There’s no ifs and ands about it. He’s able to make shots. He can make hard shots. He can make all kinds of different shots on the floor. He’s one of these guys that makes you look like a good coach because you just run a simple thing, and he can score off of it.
“The credit really goes to him and the guys that are screening for him and getting him the ball. It has very little to do with me.”
Partin was impressed with the way the Eagles defended and denied him the ball on several offensive possessions, but at the end of the day, he's just glad his team exited Conte Forum with a win over BU's bitter adversary.
“[The Eagles are] really well coached,” Partin said. “They definitely follow the scouting report really well. They clog the paint. I like to get into the paint a lot. I know D.J. likes to get into the paint, our guys, our guards. It was really clogged up, and you had to settle for a contested 15-footer.
“We got a little more use and adjusted to everything. I definitely settled for too many [jumpers] I think personally, but we still got the win.”