By René Reyes/DFP Staff
University of Maryland-Baltimore County coach Randy Monroe didn’t think twice when asked if the Boston University men’s basketball team belongs in the upper echelon of the America East Conference.
“They’re certainly one of the top three teams in the league, without question,” said Monroe, whose squad has suffered 40- and 28-point losses to Stony Brook University and the University of Vermont, respectively, thus far this season. “They have some very good players. I think they have good balance.
“They’re definitely one of the top four teams in the league, without question. Top three, I should say.”
BU flexed its muscles and took it to the visiting opposition Tuesday, reminding everyone in attendance at Case Gymnasium why it was tabbed as the preseason favorite to capture the conference title with a 83-48 shellacking of UMBC on “BUnited to Help Cure Breast Cancer” night.
Senior guard Darryl Partin scored 17 points to lead the Terriers, sophomore forward Travis Robinson recorded 10 points and six rebounds and redshirt freshman Malik Thomas chipped in nine points for BU (11-11, 7-1 AE), which now sits atop the America East standings after its seventh win in a row.
Despite BU converting on 50 percent of its field goal attempts, receiving 33 points from its bench and limiting UMBC to 30.9 percent shooting overall, first-year head coach Joe Jones wasn’t ready to label Tuesday’s performance as his team’s most complete game of the 2011-12 campaign.
“I don’t know if I would say that,” Jones said. “I think because of the margin of victory and because other guys had a chance to play and they played well. But I thought the [University at] Albany game we really did a great job. I thought the Stony Brook game at home was a great win. I don’t know if it’s any better than those games.”
Sophomore forward Chase Plummer tallied a game-high 17 points and reserve guard Jamar Wertz had 12 on an efficient 3-of-6 shooting for the Retrievers (3-17, 2-6 AE), who never led as they were called out by Monroe in his postgame presser for not having the same fiery demeanor that he has.
Partin and Robinson combined to score 14 of their team’s first 18 points of the ballgame, and as a result, the Terriers quickly jumped out to an 18-9 advantage at the 8:42 mark.
They never looked back.
Sophomore forward Dom Morris, senior center Patrick Hazel, sophomore guard D.J. Irving, senior guard Matt Griffin and freshman guard Zach Chionuma all netted points in the opening frame, as BU rolled into the intermission with a comfortable 39-22 lead.
“One of the keys of the game was just to come out and get better,” said Robinson, who rained in all of his 10 points in the first session. “We know UMBC is not one of the better teams in the league, but we take it just like we’re playing Stony Brook or Vermont. It’s just the next game on the schedule.
“We just wanted to get out and play the best basketball that we can. We had to jump out on them and make our statement.”
Known as a second-half player for stretches during this seven-game winning streak, Partin scored eight points and attempted just four shots, making two of them, in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
For Partin, who entered the matchup averaging 17 points per game in the second half, he didn’t have to resemble the America East Player of the Year candidate he’s become.
Just ask his teammates.
“We depend on Darryl a lot,” Robinson said. “We know that if he doesn’t have a good first half, he’s going to come out in the second half on fire or we know he’s going to get it started. But I guess he didn’t really have to today because everyone pretty much chipped in today. He didn’t have to be the dominant player that he usually is in the second half.”
BU stretched its cushion to as many as 37 points in the second half of a game that rapidly became an embarrassing defeat for UMBC.
Sophomore guard Mike Terry Jr. flushed down a left-handed slam that served as the proverbial punctuation mark of the blowout win. Twelve players made it onto the floor for BU, all but one of whom scored, and redshirt freshman Mat Piotrowski sunk two free throws for the first two points of his collegiate career.
“That’s definitely really big because I know they work hard every day,” Robinson said of the Terriers’ less heralded players who contributed to Tuesday’s victory. “To see them get a chance to play some good minutes and play well was real big for us and their confidence, too, going on in the season.”
Jones likes what he’s seeing from his team, which reached the .500 mark for the first time since early December.
“We have some guys who really like to compete, even in practice when we’re playing,” Jones said. “If I take guys out and I want to rest them, they want to go onto the scout team and play. They just always wanna be playing.”