In a Battle of the Ave.’s, Northeastern edges BUNovember 12th, 2011 by Matt Whitrock
The Joe Jones era kicked off in exhilarating fashion for Boston University. Unfortunately, the Terriers came up short, losing an overtime thriller 82-74 to crosstown rival Northeastern.
“We can really use this game to get better,” said Jones following his first game as head coach of the Terriers. “I thought our guys showed great promise. They battled back and showed the heart of a champion getting this thing into overtime. And then we had a couple chances here, and if things go our way we’re sitting here smiling.”
Darryl Partin scored 25 points, D.J. Irving 17 and Matt Griffin 11, including a huge 3 to give the Terriers a lead towards the end of regulation and capping a frantic second-half comeback.
Played before a raucous, standing-room-only crowd, the game featured 12 ties and 14 lead changes. Prior to the game, the Terriers raised their banner from last years NCAA Tournament berth into the rafters.
Irving was unstoppable with the ball in his hands, as the Huskies couldn’t stay in front of the 5’8” guard, who for much of the game looked like the best player on the floor.
Irving consistently made something out of nothing with the ball in his hands – blowing by defenders, getting into the lane and to the hoop – despite Northeastern running a host of collapsing zones and junk defenses focused on stopping him first and foremost.
“D.J. Irving is tough to keep out of the lane. When he gets in there he wreaks havoc. We had a couple times we thought we had charges, but he’s just so shifty you can’t really get a good angle on him,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.
Partin showed a new dimension to his game, attacking the basket off the dribble and converting several tough buckets. Griffin shook off early struggles to knock down a huge basket for the Terriers, a top of the key 3 with just over a minute left to give the Terriers a 63-62 lead and complete an 11-point comeback.
But missed free throws, poor offensive shot selection, a lack of an inside game, and the battle of the boards collectively proved to be the Terriers’ undoing in the Battle of Boston.
“We went into the game knowing that was probably going to tell the tale of who was going to win the game – who controlled the backboards – and obviously they did,” said Jones.
The Terriers couldn’t keep the Huskies off the glass, as Northeastern destroyed BU 52-32 on the boards, including 19 offensive rebounds. The Huskies scored 22 second chance points to BU’s 11.
Sophomore power forward Dominic Morris led the Terriers with 7 rebounds, to go with 8 points, but spent most of the game out of the paint on offense and out of position on defense. Morris was often a step behind on defense, leading to numerous uncontested lay-ups for Husky big-men around the hoop. On offense he scored some key buckets in the paint, but inevitably migrated back to the arc, bombing away to an 0-of-5 line from the perimeter. In overtime, he chucked up a back-breaker. With the Terriers trailing 73-72, and with possession out of a timeout, Morris found himself with the ball in his hands, 1:07 left in the game, and 14 seconds left of the shot clock. With enough time to get the ball back into the hot hands of Irving or Partin, Morris instead chose to fire away from 3-point-land, missing badly, giving the ball – and the game – back to Northeastern.
“You want to be able to play him around the basket more. When you play 4-out, 1-in, he’s on the perimeter a lot. We need to put him in position where he’s around the basket more,” said Jones.
The loss is sure to leave a sour taste in the Terriers mouths, but there were a lot of positives for Jones, first and foremost Irving and Partin’s ability to get to the hoop at will against a long and athletic Northeastern squad. And the Terriers showed great fight to will themselves back into the game after trailing by 11 with under five minutes left in regulation.
But BU must do a better job in the paint, and find a low post scoring option if they are going to return to the NCAA’s this season, and that means Morris must figure it out on the court.
Morris came to Comm Ave last season with a tremendous amount of hype, and showed flashes of brilliance around the hoop, as at 6’5” and 250 pounds he proved to be unstoppable around the hoop when he asserted himself. But far too often, Morris found himself standing around the perimeter on offense instead of establishing position in the low post, appeared to lack effort and intensity on the glass, and was often lost on defense. It was more of the same for Morris on Friday.
It’s early in his career, but Morris is already toeing the dangerous line of being a May-to-October player: looks great in open gyms, but can’t up his competitiveness when the lights go on. He isn’t a good enough shooter to be spending most of his minutes chucking and ducking on the perimeter, and the Terriers need their burliest player around the basket. If he continues to play without enthusiasm – and without using his head – Jones will likely have to look elsewhere (possibly freshman James Kennedy) for frontcourt minutes.
It won’t get any easier for the Terriers, who hit the road for the program’s first ever meeting with Texas on Sunday.