By Sara Sturtevant
Coming off an overtime loss at Florida State, the BU men’s basketball team (5-3, 0-0 PL) defeated the Merrimack College Warriors (4-4, 0-0 NEC) 61-60 back at home in Case Gym Sunday afternoon.
Merrimack’s early possessions set the tone for the first half on offense, led by forceful drives into the paint by Mikey Watkins. The Warriors’ control of their zone defense and other offensive opportunities enabled them to build a 37-30 lead over BU heading into the second half.
“We’re trying to have a consistent mindset of we play hard, we play together, we share the ball,” said head coach Joe Jones of the team’s mentality going into the second half. “We just needed to tighten up defensively.”
The Terriers were able to put the clamps on Merrimack’s shooting, limiting the Warriors to just 43.8% shooting from the floor in the second half compared to 54.6% in the first period.
“I thought in the second half we just defended better. I thought it should’ve been more 43 [to 48%] for the game, and I thought that would’ve been really good for us. I think we’re capable of doing that,” Jones said.
On the other end of the floor, the second half was not much different, as BU struggled to penetrate the Warriors’ zone defense and capitalize offensively.
However, the Terriers slowly inched their way back within striking distance as the clock wound down. Senior guard Jonas Harper was able to lock down Merrimack’s Watkins and center Sukhmail Mathon went 2-for-2 on the line, dwindling the Warriors’ lead to 60-58.
Then, with less than three seconds left in the game and the Terriers’ bench and fans on their feet, guard Javante McCoy sank a three from the top of the arc, securing the comeback win 61-60.
McCoy led the team with 20 points, as well as 35 minutes played. Mathon was strong in the paint, finishing with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
“We thought the whole time [Sukhmail] was open on the bottom and that worked out for us,” said senior forward Fletcher Tynen, who finished one point shy of his season-best.
Similarly, Merrimack’s offensive attack was surged by power forwards Ziggy Reid and Jordan Minor. Together they combined for a total of 28 points, almost half of which were made from the free-throw line as they honed in their ability to draw fouls.
The close victory was BU’s second consecutive contest decided by one point despite the absence of senior forward Walter Whyte and junior forward Nevin Zink, who are currently averaging 20 combined points per game.
The Terriers hit the road for their next game Wednesday against George Washington University, with tipoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m.