Monday, December 5, 2011

Soaring with the Eagles: Men's basketball gets historic win

By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff

CHESTNUT HILL – As first-year Boston University men’s basketball coach Joe Jones addressed reporters in a lobby outside his team’s locker room at Conte Forum, he was very adamant about one thing from the start – that the final score of the game was not a reflection of what he saw as a hard-fought contest.

Jones’ sentiment notwithstanding, there was a simple, coherent truth that came with the score under question – it made history as BU was able to do something it had not done since Gerald Ford was president.

Behind a 44-point second-half, the Terriers went on the road and knocked off rival Boston College 75-61, marking the first time since 1974 that BU had beaten the Eagles.

Senior guard Darryl Partin led all scorers with a game-high 27 points, his second-straight 27-point performance, but made his biggest mark when he scored seven consecutive points midway through the second half to extend BU’s lead from three points to 10, putting a game that had been largely back-and-forth firmly in the Terriers’ (4-4) control.

“He’s a terrific player, there’s no if’s and and’s about it,” Jones said. “He can make hard shots and all different kind of 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 go score off it.”

Partin’s run was a definitive moment in a game that had previously lacked one, with both teams building leads at various points, only to see them crumble away over time, as evidenced by the game’s nine ties and 13 lead changes.

BU raced out to an 11-4 lead just under three minutes into the game, only to see the Eagles (2-6) claw back and take a lead that built up to as many as nine points as BC held a 25-16 edge with 7:29 remaining in the first half. The Terriers would respond by closing out the half on a 15-6 run to send both teams to the locker room with the score tied at 31.

For the first 10 minutes of the second half, BU and BC continued to hang close with one another, with neither team building a lead greater than two possessions.

That all changed, however, when the Terriers led 51-48 and Partin knocked home a mid-range jump shot to push the lead to five.

In transition after a missed jumper from BC guard Jordan Daniels, Partin pulled up and made an almost identical long two-point shot.

Working in almost a cyclical pattern, Daniels missed another shot and the Terriers quickly brought it down the court, where senior guard Matt Griffin found Partin open in the corner. As he rose for the shot, the crowd rose with him and, surely enough, the ball went in again, turning a closely-contested game into a double digit lead and sending the sizeable contingent of BU fans into a raucous celebration.

The run came shortly after a 3-for-10 shooting performance from Partin in the first half, but he said it came down to a matter of persistence, something that ultimately helped his team pull out the win.

“I missed a lot of shots in the first half, but I just stayed confident and kept shooting and kept being aggressive,” Partin said.

From there, BC would get no closer than six points and by the time little-used players like senior forward Chris Kurz, freshman center Mat Piotrowski and freshman forward Malik Thomas went to the scorers’ table in the final 40 seconds, the lead was up to 13.

For BU, the game proved to be a tale of two halves, particularly on the offensive end. In the first half, the Terriers shot just 33.3 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range, with the latter figure coming into shape from the team taking 21 first half 3-pointers.

Though Jones said that his team did a good job of maintaining its composure playing a longtime rival, it wasn’t fully tuned-in in the game’s first period.

“My guys get really excited and that’s the way they’ve been in every game, but playing at BC, they were very excited to come in and play, and I think there’s times when they get excited, they don’t always make the best decisions,” Jones said. “I thought offensively, we were really selling out early and [BC] was forcing us into the kind of shots that they want us to take.”

The second half, however, saw the Terriers shoot 53.3 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc. Not-so-coincidentally, BU outscored BC 44-30 in that time.

Sophomore point guard D.J. Irving added 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists compared to just two turnovers.

As senior center Patrick Hazel struggled for the second consecutive game, sophomore forward Dom Morris picked up the slack on the low post by recording his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Playing consistently against a long BC frontcourt (specifically seven-foot center Dennis Clifford) and sometimes being the only BU big on the court as Jones shifted to a smaller, quicker lineup, Morris was never fazed, even if the double-double wasn’t the first thing on his mind after the game.

“It honestly doesn’t [mean anything],” Morris said of the double-double. “In my mindset, I should be getting a double-double every game, but in reality I probably won’t.

“I just do what the team needs – if the team needs me to get 20 rebounds and don’t score, I’ll do that. Whatever it takes for the team to win.”

With the win, the Terriers are now back to the .500 plateau since the season began at 0-0 and they face two difficult games in the next week, with a road test at Saint Joseph’s University and a home contest against Harvard University.

With four straight wins and a team seemingly hitting its stride much earlier in the season than recent BU teams have, Jones is focusing on continuing to get more comfortable with this team and having the Terriers do their best to keep the wins coming.

“We have to keep getting better,” Jones said. “I think if they continue to have the attitude of getting better, we’re going to continue to have some success. I don’t know whether we can win every game we play, but certainly if we can continue to get better, we’re going to be in good
shape in the end.”

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