Men’s Basketball Vies for Patriot League Championship Tonight
A win would send Terriers to the NCAA tournament
Just one win away.
The BU men’s basketball team could clinch the Patriot League title in its first season in the conference tonight at Agganis Arena. Preseason favorites to win the conference, the Terriers took the regular season championship with a strong finish in league play, and a win over the American University Eagles in the tournament final would not only snag the league title, but earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.
The game promises to be competitive. Number-two seed American handed the Terriers one of their three conference losses with an 86-56 victory at home on January 22. When the two met at Agganis a month later, head coach Joe Jones says, his squad responded well to the home crowd atmosphere, defeating American 71-62.
“We controlled the game in the second half,” he says. “We did a great job defensively and were able to rebound the ball at a high level, which helped us get out in transition, and that’s when we’re at our best. There’s no doubt that being at home helps us. The crowds have been great all season, and I’m sure it will be the same tonight.”
As the tournament’s top seed, the BU men hosted their quarterfinal and semifinal matchups. They took care of business with a 91-54 win over Lafayette College last Wednesday and claimed a 91-70 win over Army on Saturday thanks to a strong second half and a record-setting performance from Maurice Watson, Jr.
Philadelphia native Watson (CGS’14) leads the Terriers in scoring this season, at 13.5 points a game, also dishing out a team-high 7 assists a game, an average he shattered Saturday with a school-record 17 assists against Army. That total was the most in Division I men’s basketball this season.
“I was just trying to make the right play and take what the defense gave me,” Watson says. “I had no idea about the record until after the game, but it really means a lot to me. A lot of guys are known for scoring or various other things, but I like being known for passing. It makes me know that I’m doing my job as a point guard by getting my teammates involved.”
Watson starts alongside fellow Philadelphia native D. J. Irving (MET’14) and sharpshooter John Papale (CGS’14). Together, they form a talented three-guard backcourt that has been creating havoc for the opposition all season. “Our chemistry is at an all-time high right now,” says Watson. “We understand where we’re supposed to be, we can all guard multiple positions, shoot, and drive, and it just makes us that much more of a dangerous team.”
Irving concurs that the team is the best it’s been all year. “We’ve matured a lot over the course of the season. A lack of maturity cost us a couple of games earlier in the season. I think we just didn’t play hard enough during that loss at American, but now we’re at our peak.”
The Terriers, in fact, have been practicing like a team at its peak, with intense scrimmages and their coach applauding their ferocity as teammates push one another.
“These guys are ballplayers,” Jones says. “A lot of them have won state championships, and they’ve played in these types of high-pressure situations their whole lives. They’re not going to just let this game happen—they’re going to go out and get it. That’s the attitude our veterans have taken, and the younger guys are following suit.”
Despite their recent success, Jones exhorts his players during practices to “do the little things,” such as diving for loose balls, boxing out on rebounds, and communicating on defense. Whenever he senses the slightest lapse, he stops a scrimmage to remind them what they’re competing for. “That lack of effort is how we let Army back in the game,” he warns his players. “We can’t have that, and we’ve only got one game to correct it.”
If BU defeats American tonight, it will be the eighth time the program has earned a bid to the NCAA tournament. For tricaptains Dom Morris (MET’14), Travis Robinson (SMG’14), and Irving, it would be a fitting end to a career that began with an America East title their freshman year.
“This is why we started playing basketball,” Irving says. “Since we were young, we’ve thought about playing in these types of games, so earning a conference championship and an NCAA berth would mean everything to us. I look at this as a life-and-death situation, I put everything I have into this game, and to come out on top would mean a lot.”
The Boston University men’s basketball team faces American University in the Patriot League championship game at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, March 12, at Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets are $22 and can be purchased here. Athletics is offering discounted $10 tickets to faculty and staff with a BU ID (four per person) at the Agganis box office between now and game time. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, and Westwood One will be on hand to provide a national radio broadcast.
Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com Comments