By Henry Dinh-Price
After 16 minutes, the Terriers were tied on the road against a strong Big Ten opponent. Then everything fell apart.
Boston University Men’s Basketball (0-2) was not expected to go into Piscataway, New Jersey, and take down the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1) in their home opener on Friday. But BU’s collapse over the final 24 minutes was not expected either.
The Terriers forced 13 first-half turnovers and led for a majority of the first period. When the final buzzer sounded, however, BU walked off the court looking up at a scoreboard that read Rutgers 69, Boston University 45.
“We had a good 15-minute stretch, or so, in the game where we were doing some good things and we just couldn’t maintain it,” head coach Joe Jones said.
BU jumped out to an early lead, generated by four made three-pointers in the first eleven minutes, but as the game wore on the Terriers failed to put the ball in the basket. BU only shot 27 percent from the field (14-52), and 20 percent from three (5-25).
“There’s a lot of potential here but we have a lot of work to do, and we gotta figure some things out,” Jones said. “Right now we’re struggling to score the ball in the paint and tonight it kind of caught up to us.”
BU’s roster features a group that has very little experience playing with each other. With six new additions in Jones’ 11-man rotation, it’s bound to take time. But Jones knows that BU cannot win games shooting the way they did. Only scoring nine field goals from inside the arc, paired with poor three-point shooting, makes it nearly impossible to win basketball games.
A lack of scoring output from any one player makes it difficult as well. Considering that no Terrier finished in double figures, no one has separated themselves as a go-to guy that Jones can rely on to get a bucket when needed.
Freshman wing Matai Baptiste led BU in scoring with eight points on an inefficient two-for-eight shooting. Junior guard Ethan Okwuosa added seven on a more efficient three-of-five. Freshman guard Spencer Joyner had six points while shooting one-for-four. The rest of the Terriers scored five or fewer.
This issue was on full display when BU underwent an almost eight-minute scoring drought to end the first half and begin the second.
Senior guard Miles Brewster drove left and threw up a fadeaway floater over two Rutgers defenders as the shot clock buzzer sounded. As the ball dropped through the net with 3:53 left in the first half, BU found themselves tied at 22-22.
That was the last bucket that Terriers fans would see until they trailed by 15 points.
Rutgers’ five-star freshman guard Gavin Griffiths led the beginning of the 15-0 run, scoring six points to end the half and give the Scarlet Knights an eight-point advantage heading into the halftime break. Griffiths finished with 25 points off the bench to lead the game.
Senior forward Aundre Hyatt, who chipped in with 17 points of his own, capped off the run with the second half’s first seven points, ending with a left wing three-pointer that forced Jones to call timeout.
As the second half continued, offensive struggles continued for BU as Rutgers took total control of the contest. The Terriers struggled to get good looks at times, and even when they did, the shots didn’t fall.
The Scarlet Knights piled on and stretched their lead to 30 points at its largest, a 64-34 advantage with just under seven minutes remaining.
BU wasn’t used to the size that Rutgers has — five Scarlet Knights 6-foot-8 and above saw action.
“I thought as the game went on, it just wore on us. Things that normally come a little bit easier, those things weren’t coming as easy,” Jones said, “We just weren’t ready to kind of fight through that mentally where we could work through it and still generate, you know, high-quality shots.”
The loss is disappointing, but the Terriers came into this game knowing that it would be a challenge. Rutgers is the only Power Five conference school on BU’s schedule. There is a lot to learn after this loss. Hopefully, the learning will come sooner rather than later.
As BU looks forward to its next matchup, another tough test awaits. The Terriers will look to earn their first win on Tuesday in Washington D.C. against Howard University, a team that featured in the NCAA Tournament last season. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.