It might not have fully washed away the sour aftertaste of bitter defeat that had lingered in the Terriers mouths since last March, but Wednesday night tasted sweet nonetheless for Boston University basketball.
“It’s great to beat American,” said Boston University sophomore guard Cedric Hankerson, who posted a game-high 18-points and a school-record nine steals as BU downed their Patriot League foes 59-54.
While BU never trailed, and the game was only tied for a total of 32 seconds, there were plenty of dramatics in the rematch of last season’s Patriot League Championship game – a game the Terriers hosted on their home floor, only the be floored 55-36 last March 12.
“I was as proud of this win as any win this year, because I thought we fought and scrapped for 40 minutes,” said Boston University head coach Joe Jones.
Red-shirt sophomore Eric Fanning scored 14 points in the first start of his Terriers career and junior forward Justin Alston added 12 points for BU. American was led by senior guard Jesse Reed who scored 15 points to go with eight rebounds, and Marko Vasic, who added 14 points off the bench.
On Wednesday, the Terriers were able to jump out to an early 11-2 lead with some good ball movement, opening up uncontested shots and promptly knocking them down, while stifling the Eagles on the other end. Boston University shot 45 percent from the floor in the first half (45.5 percent on the night) while holding the Eagles to just 37.5 percent in the opening stanza to build enough of a lead to hang on after the Eagles made several runs.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, American cut the BU lead down to one, 25-24, but that would be as close as they would get in the half as the teams went to the break with BU ahead 27-24.
In the second half, BU picked up the pace and went right back to scoring, with Hankerson getting things going with a three-pointer to put BU up six. With 16:40 left in the game the Terriers pushed the lead to 15, 39-24, but the Eagles refused to go down without a fight, chipping the Terriers lead to six over the next four minutes. BU pushed its lead back to 10 twice, but American answered each time, with a Marko Vasic 3-pointer cutting the lead to three, 51-48, with 4:15 remaining.
After the Terriers counter-punched, a Vasic jumped once again cut the lead to three, 53-50, with 2:58 remaining. And after a Justin Alston lay-up pushed the lead back to five, senior Jesse Reed once again cut the Terriers’ lead to three, 55-52, on a lay-up of his own with 2:14 remaining.
With American coming off three-straight last second wins, Jones and the Terriers knew they would have to play with everything they had until the final horn.
“There’s no doubt that comes into your mind that you know you’re going to have to make plays,” said BU head coach Joe Jones. “And you know that they’re going to make plays.”
With 50 seconds on the clock, a layup attempt by Jesse Reed took a few trips around the bucket before rimming out and into the hands of BU’s Eric Fanning. Fanning who missed two game winning free throw attempts in BU’s loss at Loyola, was able to earn a bit of redemption sinking a layup with 18 seconds to go, putting his team ahead by five.
Five seconds later, Darius “Pee Wee” Gardner, who had hit game-winners just before the buzzer in the Eagles two previous games, (wins over Lafayette and Lehigh) tried to hit another big shot for American by drawing contact while attempting a long-range shot near the three-point line. After the play was reviewed it was found that Gardner had attempted a two and not a three. Gardner would hit his two free throws to get the deficit back down to three, 57-54, with 14 seconds remaining.
American was forced to foul and sent BU freshman Ceddi Mosely to line for a 1-and-1 attempt. Mosely sunk both of his shots with 7.9 seconds on the clock to provide the final margin of victory.
“Those were big time,” said Hankerson. “For such a young kid, he’s so confident with the ball and that’s what we need him to be because he has such a big role.”
Both teams are now tied for second place in the Patriot League behind Colgate and Bucknell.
“That was a great win for us, because that’s a very difficult team to guard, I was proud of our guys,” said Jones.