Featured image by Joe Eachus
By Sam Robb O’Hagan
BOSTON — How good it felt to be home.
“I feel like Case (Gym) has a special place in my heart,” said senior guard Miles Brewster, the most experienced player on the home side, which was playing host for the first time this season. “I just feel comfortable.”
How good it felt to see shots fall.
“We shot well, we shot very well, and it felt like we had a little home court luck there,” Brewster said. Coming in, his team was shooting just 33.9 percent from the field.
And how good it felt, finally, to win.
“The journey I’ve gone to get here, it was just amazing,” junior guard Ethan Okwuosa said after winning his first career DI game. He was a transfer from DII Southern New Hampshire this offseason.
“Really can’t put it into words, for real.”
Make no mistake, Boston University men’s basketball (1-3) was staring down the barrel. A loss would have meant the Terriers’ first 0-4 start in 11 years. But, after three-straight road losses to open a season with so much inexperience, BU found refuge at Case Gym in their home opener on Thursday, exploding for 95 points to defeat the Bryant Bulldogs (1-3) 95-79.
“Really happy for the guys,” head coach Joe Jones said. “They stay positive. They stayed supportive of each other, and tonight, they were kind of able to put it together.”
Six D1 rookies saw the floor for the Terriers. There wasn’t much more experience guiding BU’s other five players, either. None of them were averaging even nine points per game coming in.
Then on Thursday, six scored double-figures. Another scored seven. For four of them, it was a D1 career-high. And for seven alongside Okwuosa, it was their first career D1 victory.
“It’s really surreal,” Okwuosa said. “Just being able to be Division 1, play in Boston, playing with my great teammates.”
Surreal it was. After averaging 52 points per game in their first three contests, the Terriers finished the first half on Thursday with 47.
With 3:55 left before halftime, junior guard Ben Palacios, another transfer from DII, received the ball at the end of the shot clock after a botched possession. He was stranded all the way out at the ‘BU’ logo.
He took one step, pulled up for a running, one-legged 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, and drained it.
For BU, it was just that kind of night.
Palacios was perfect from the field (5-5) in the first half, made three 3-pointers, and went into the break with 14 points.
Said Jones: “Ben Palacios’ first half was ridiculous.”
Palacios didn’t make a shot in the second half. BU still scored 48 more points to finish with 95.
The Terriers made 14 3-pointers and shot 48.6 percent from the field, both season-highs by a mile. Maybe two miles.
“I do think if you watch the (previous) games, we played well, we just didn’t make any shots,” Jones said.
Freshman guard Kyrone Alexander finished with 17 points and made three 3-pointers. Okwuosa added 13, corralled 10 rebounds, blocked two shots — as a 6-foot-2 guard — and recorded three steals.
“We’re learning every day,” Okwuosa said. “Coach has done a great job with us, being patient, and we’re all gelling at the right time.”
Brewster, the adult in BU’s backcourt for the first time in his career, shook off a frustrating start to the season, and early foul trouble on Thursday, to finish with 12 points, five assists and two steals in 24 minutes on the floor.
“Having an 0-3 start, it’s not fun,” Brewster said. “I have my coach, Coach Jones, he was sending me text messages, calling me, telling me just stay positive, (telling me) ‘it’s missed shots, don’t worry about that.’”
Sophomore forward Otto Landrum, shouldering the load of being the Terriers’ main presence in the post this season, responded to criticism, some from his head coach, following the 0-3 start. Coming in, Landrum was averaging 4 points per game on a measly 23.8 percent shooting clip.
On Thursday, Landrum finished with a career-high and team-leading 19 points, shot 70 percent from the field and hauled in seven rebounds.
“Otto is a heck of a player,” Jones said. “But they’re playing against guys that are older and stronger. Tonight (Bryant) didn’t have as much size so Otto was able to take advantage.”
Landrum, the second-most experienced player to see the floor for BU after Brewster, was playing with only 314 prior minutes under his belt.
Sophomore guard Ben Roy, another returning Terrier with very little prior experience, finished with a career-high 11 points. He dished out two assists, including a miraculous low-post feed through traffic to Landrum for an easy layup to give BU a 21 point-lead halfway through the second half.
“I thought Ben Roy was terrific,” Jones said. “I was really impressed, I thought he was really good.”
Just about everyone that saw the floor for BU, their lack of experience withstanding, played their best game in scarlet and white.
It was just that kind of night.
“Tonight, the pieces kind of fell into place and some guys had some spectacular games,” Jones said. “Ethan (Okwuosa) had 10 freaking rebounds. Otto was awesome. It was a team effort.”
And a ubiquitous team effort, too. The Terriers notched season-highs in points, shots made, shots attempted, free throws made, free throws attempted, rebounds and assists, and a season-low in turnovers.
It was just that kind of night.
“You saw the ability of this young team, and what it could be,” Jones said.
How good it felt to finally see it.
Because at least for a moment, the focus for a struggling, inexperienced team became how high their ceiling could rise.
“I said to the team in the locker room after the game,” Brewster said, “a mediocre team will have a win like that and be super happy and overly ecstatic.”
“But, a great team is going to be happy, be proud of ourselves for getting over that hump, but then it’s ‘alright, what do we got to work on?’ Because not every game we’re going to be able to shoot lights out.”