Mahoney Stars, BU Survives Bucknell, 87-80, in Patriot League Play Home Opener

Junior forward Max Mahoney has easily been the Terriers’ best player this season, but in the Patriot League play home opener against the Bucknell Bison, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound big man took his game to the next level.

In a rematch of last season’s Patriot League semifinals, the Boston University Terriers defeated Bucknell, 87-80, on Saturday afternoon at Case Gym.

Quick numbers first: Mahoney posted season-high 26 points and career-high 14 rebounds. But the statistical success wasn’t what defined his game. Instead, it was his consistent effort, energy and toughness, the exact qualities head coach Joe Jones demanded from his team after Wednesday’s loss against American.

Mahoney pulled 7 offensive rebounds and put up 2 steals and 2 blocks. And his teammates were led by his example: junior forward Tyler Scanlon drew two charges in the first half alone, and the Terriers were all over the place, fighting for possession and causing deflections.

BU still let up 80 points, but the winning didn’t just depend on scoring more points. They had to fight for it.

After trailing by up to 13 points, the Bison were constantly battling, making it just a four-point deficit with 31 seconds remaining in the contest. They had made a 26-point comeback against Army just this Wednesday.

But the Terriers, who entered the game with 63.9 percent shooting from the line, hit 16-of-18 free throws (88.9 percent) to pull away.

Bucknell senior Nate Sestina set two career-highs with 27 points and five 3-pointers. Senior guard Kimbal Mackenzie contributed 19 points, and junior forward Bruce Moore added 16 points.

Notebook

  • Mahoney’s rebounding effort (14 rebounds, 7 offensive) was something else, but it really wasn’t just about the numbers. He seemed to be all over the place, and you could see his energy, especially after his and-1s.
  • Whatever Jones said to his team, it clearly worked. The entire BU team seemed to be much more focused on Saturday. But we’ve seen moments like these before. The question is whether or not they can sustain this success.
  • Freshman forward Fletcher Tynen was inserted into starting lineup on Saturday. Freshman forward Jordan Guest is technically the better rebounder, but with Mahoney’s dominance in the paint, Tynen’s positional flexibility will serve the team better. He’s shown more consistent effort, too.
  • After averaging 8.2 points per game on 30.4 percent shooting in December, sophomore guard Javante McCoy put up 16 points per game in the first week of conference play. McCoy still made some poor decisions, but BU desperately needs his shot-creating ability. It’s a give-and-take with him.
  • We all know that Bucknell senior Nate Sestina is an all-conference level player, but with an added 3-point range to his game this season, he’s an absolutely nightmare.
  • Bucknell forward Bruce Moore was eating up Scanlon inside in the second half. By design, this wasn’t a mismatch: BU elected for that defensive assignment. Scanlon was worth keeping on the floor for his leadership and offensive ability, but the Sestina-Moore pairing is going to be devastating.
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