During the first half, Boston University head coach Joe Jones used his wide hands to signal sophomore guard Javante McCoy: Slow down. While BU could outrun Nicholls State’s smothering full court press at times, the team had lost control of its pace.
Upon noticing the coach’s cue, the team’s action played at half-speed. Spending a few seconds to read the situation and regain their composure, the Terriers began to pull away, as they defeated Nicholls State, 75-63 , at Case Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
“There are times we look like a young team, where we’re not organized, the spacing’s bad, the execution is bad, the timing’s not very good,” Jones said. “When I saw that going on, I wanted to make sure I got them organized. … [Nicholls State] sped us up, and at times, it hurt us.”
The Colonels (5-5) started the game with a quick 8-2 run led by their defensive press, but the Terriers (7-5) looked to their interior presence, scoring 12 of their first 14 points in the paint, to ensure the lead didn’t pull away. BU outscored Nicholls State, 46-22, in the paint for the afternoon.
By halftime, the Terriers led the Colonels, 39-26, thanks to freshman forward Jack Hemphill’s 7-0 run in the closing minutes of the half. “I was just waiting for Jack [to have this moment,” Jones said. “You bring a guy like Jack off the bench, he can put a lot of pressure on you.”
The afternoon’s result was a reflection on the team’s effort to pick itself back up from the Thursday’s loss against Dartmouth, Jones said. It had happened before: Following their Nov. 21 loss to Drexel, the Terriers played well against Rutger, though their poor shooting would end in a loss.
“They had the same look in their eyes in practice, the walkthrough,” Jones said. “I knew that the Dartmouth game would be a tough game. I didn’t think we would struggle with our focus and energy the way we did, so it was good to have that back tonight.”
Nicholls State again launched the period with a vengeance in the second half, cutting the lead to two possessions after Gavin Peppers’ 5-0 run brought the score to 48-42 with 14:52 remaining in the game.
But every time the Colonels made their move, the Terriers responded with their own. With 5:17 left, junior forward Tyler Scanlon connected a pass from three-quarters of the court to find junior forward Max Mahoney for an alley-oop and a foul. The three-point play completed a 10-3 run to bring the score up 67-53.
“[That was] straight chemistry,” Mahoney said. “He put it in the perfect spot. I was able to reach back and finish while falling out of bounds, and I got the call from the back. It just speaks to our chemistry on the floor.”
Mahoney scored 20 points and 7 rebounds, marking his third straight game with at least 20 points.
While today’s effort was a positive point for the team, Jones said that BU has to bring the energy it did today on a daily basis to reach the next level.
“Our consistency at how we practice is not at a championship-caliber level,” Jones said. “Teams that play for championships, they practice like that all the time, and we’ve got to find a way to get this group to have that level of focus and energy.”
“Once we get that, we have a chance to be very good,” Jones said.