Even after losing the likes of D.J. Irving, Dom Morris and Maurice Watson Jr. over the offseason, with players like Cedric Hankerson, Eric Fanning and Cheddi Mosely, Boston University basketball head coach Joe Jones felt confident his team would be able to score this year. It was a confidence that was validated with the Terriers ranking third in the Patriot League in scoring in conference games (69.5 ppg).
The question was whether the Terriers would be able to stop opponents from doing the same.
Throughout the season, Jones harped on his team’s ability to get stops, and spent extra time in practices working on it, but even at season’s end, it remained very much a work in progress, with the Terriers ranking eighth out of 10 Patriot League teams in scoring defense in conference play (68.6 ppg).
Defense would prove to be the Terriers undoing and achilles heel to close out the season, as BU allowed Holy Cross to drill 9-of-10 second half 3-pointers in a 77-70 home loss to Holy Cross to close out the regular season, following by a 89-64 annihilation at the hands of Lafayette in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals.
“That’s all we talked about,” he said. “It wouldn’t of looked like it tonight, but that’s all we talked about.”
Last season, BU was able to sweep the Leopards, defeating them three times, including a massive victory during the 2014 quarterfinals, in which the Terriers scored 91 points and broke the tournament record for best field goal percentage, shooting 66.1-percent from the field.
On Thursday night, the roles were reversed as Lafayette was the team breaking a record and having a near triple-digit performance, defeating BU 89-64 and setting the record for most 3-point field goals in a tournament game, with 16.
“They were great tonight, Franny had them ready, that shows what kind of coach he is, he had his team ready to go, “ said Jones.
With 13:14 to go in the first half, the game was all BU, with the Terriers up 14-4 after a 3-pointer from Eric Fanning. But then Lafayette’s Seth Hinrichs hit a jumper , starting a torrential downpour of buckets and a 20-5 run by the Leopards, and by halftime, the dam had burst on the Terriers’ defense.
“I just think it was more of a mental thing, they started hitting a lot of shots, they came one after another, they just had the momentum for most of the game,” said Hankerson. “I think it was just a mental thing and then we got down on ourselves and it was just like a flood.”
Lafayette shot an impressive 59-percent (16-for-27) from the field and 57-percent (8-for-14) from 3-point range to tally 40 points in the first half.
“We were a step behind everything,” said Jones. “I know when our guys are ready to go, we looked tired, we looked mentally tired. It was strange for a team that I thought we had a pretty good feel for what they like to do, and what they do.”
Lafayette’s offensive eruption came from their ability to use screens to gain separation from Terrier defenders and knock down open shots.
“You can kind of see the possessions happening, and you know what your guys should be doing and you know where they should be, but we were just nowhere to be found, we were just lost,” said Jones. ”Any time they can get the open looks that they got, you’re not beating them. This is on me, I didn’t have my team ready to go, we just weren’t ready to play, which is unbelievable.”
Jones could tell as early as the day before the game that his team was lacking the energy necessary to win even from his team’s effort in practice the day before.
“If you can’t get excited about this, I don’t know,” he said. “We were just not ready to go, and to be honest with you in practice yesterday we weren’t ready in practice yesterday, we didn’t practice well, it was a shame.”
Jones took the blame for the deflating end to the Terriers season, but didn’t let his players off the hook either.
“It’s leadership from me, from our captains, from our upperclassmen, from our assistants; it’s our program not being ready to play, not being committed to understand what it takes to play in a game like this,” he said. “Not just those guys being young, you got to be ready, there’s absolutely no excuse, none.”
With the loss, the Terriers ended their season with a 13-17 record. With no shot of any other post-season tournaments, Jones is already looking towards the 2015-2016 season.
“We got to look at ourselves in the mirror and we got to be able to understand what we need to do night in and night out, day in and day out to be a better basketball program,” he said.