By Luke Scotchie
Cover Photo Credit: Stevie Potter
The final road trip for Boston University Men’s Basketball (14-16, 7-10 PL) ended on a high note with their victory against Army West Point (15-15, 9-8 PL) at Christl Arena on Wednesday by a final score of 73-67.
Leading the victory for the Terriers was senior guard Ethan Brittain-Watts, who came off the bench to finish with 16 points off 4-for-7 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
“[Brittain-Watts] is a big part of what we do,” BU Head Coach Joe Jones said. “He was terrific; [he] made some big shots. He came up big tonight.”
Going into the game, Jones knew that he had a tall task against him. The Terriers had to prioritize stopping Army’s star guard Jalen Rucker from getting shots up if they were to have any chance of winning this game.
“Rucker’s arguably the best guard in the league,” Jones said. “He can hurt you in a lot of different ways. We just wanted to contain him.”
The two teams were neck-and-neck with one another as the first half played out. Army was in the lead by a slim margin throughout the half, but great defense from the Terriers kept that lead smaller than it otherwise would have been.
“I was proud of the guys with their effort,” Jones said. “Especially in the first half, I thought we did a pretty good job defensively.”
At halftime, the Terriers knew they were playing well, but not well enough. If BU wanted to pull away from the Black Knights, they would have to tweak some of their plans that weren’t working. That started with changing their defensive game plan.
“Going into halftime, we just wanted to change up on Rucker. … Change up our defense on him,” Jones said. “He was scoring, but we were able to hold the other guys down, and I thought that played a difference in the game. They weren’t able to get guys like [Ethan] Roberts and [Luke] Benson open for threes.”
BU adjusted their offensive strategy too, opting to focus on attacking weak points in Army’s pick-and-roll defense.
“Offensively, we just kind of wanted to take advantage of the way they were guarding us on the ball screen coverage,” Jones said. “I thought we did a really good job at that.”
The changes worked. BU began the second half strong, taking a lead that Army struggled to come back from. The Terriers were up by eight points with six minutes left to play, which was the largest lead of the entire game. But Army didn’t quit, as Rucker and Roberts led a charge that shrunk the Terriers’ lead. With just under two minutes left in regulation, Rucker made a 3-pointer that tied the game 67-67.
Jones knew the Terriers had a simple mission if they wanted to win the game, the same one they had at the beginning of this game.
“We wanted to keep the ball out of Rucker’s hands,” Jones said.
That plan worked, as Rucker failed to make another shot for the rest of the game. However, Army’s defense showed out too, including a stop against Terriers senior forward Nevin Zink.
“We ran a play for Nevin Zink to score it inside,” Jones said. “[Army’s defense] did a decent job on him.”
But the Terriers would get a second chance to win this game after graduate wing Walter Whyte rebounded Zink’s miss. Whyte bobbled the ball in his hands before tipping it to graduate guard Fletcher Tynen, who made a quick pass to graduate guard Jonas Harper on the perimeter. With just 1:09 left in the game, Harper quickly released his 3-point attempt, which went in.
Army still had a chance to win the game, but a missed shot from guard TJ Small and his foul on Brittain-Watts set those plans awry. Two free throws from Brittain-Watts and a later free throw from Harper sealed the game.
Jones believes that this win proves that the Terriers have started to turn a corner late in the regular season, and are much better than what their record suggests.
“We’re coming together now,” Jones said. “The two games that we lost were both on last possessions. We’re able to win by double-figures (referencing their win against Bucknell) and then we’re able to go on the road now and beat a really good Army team that beat us the first time.”
Jones and the Terriers will have a chance to end the regular season on a three-game win streak when they return to Case Gym on Saturday at 1 p.m., where they will take on Lehigh University in the final game of the regular season.