Opinion: It’s been a tough road for BU Men’s Basketball. Is it turning a corner after win at Lafayette?

Featured image by Jacob Ireland

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

Finally — finally — BU men’s basketball might be turning a corner.

The 62-48 win on the road against Patriot League-leading Lafayette (8-13, 7-1 PL) on Saturday is one thing. The way BU did it — 28 points in the paint, a career-high 26 points from big man Otto Landrum, decreased reliance on the 3 ball — is what the Terriers have been waiting for all season.

This was growth.

“For the large part of the season, we’ve thought of ourselves as a jump shooting team,” BU head coach Joe Jones said. “And we’ve got to be more of an attacking team and a team that plays in the paint more.”

The 28 points in the paint? Tied for the most BU scored since a dominant win over Merrimack in the last game of non-conference play. The 26 from Landrum? The most a Terrier has scored in any game all season. The 21 3-point attempts? The fewest the league’s worst distance-shooting team has taken in its conference slate.

“We’ve got to know who we are,” Jones said. “If we can do that, we can play with anybody.”

These are baby steps, absolutely. But the Terriers, overwhelmingly young and impossibly inexperienced, are babies.

BU shot better than it has, but still just 40.2 percent, a bad number for most teams. It scored 62 points, which is fine but not good, and it still shot itself into offensive lulls when it settled for 3s early in the shot clock.

But. There were ever-so-promising stretches, too, like midway through the first half, when the Terriers scored 14 points in four minutes, eight of them put in from the paint by their two bigs, Landrum and sophomore Nico Nobili. Included in that stretch — a sweet post move from Landrum in isolation to create an easy layup, a thunderous dunk from the 6-foot-9 forward and a beautiful bounce pass from senior guard Miles Brewster to a cutting Landrum to give BU a 21-18 lead.

“Otto was unbelievable tonight,” Jones said.

Landrum and Nobili have struggled all season, especially in the paint. BU has shot worse from 3 than any team in the league during the conference slate but has still taken more triples than anyone else. The Terriers’ bigs haven’t been willing to take touches inside. On Saturday, they were.

“I don’t think we should be taking 28 3s (per game) like we’ve been,” Jones said. “Just trying to change our identity a little bit to get them focused on the things that allow you to play with more force offensively.”

That is progress. Of Landrum’s 26 points, only nine of them were from downtown. 

A 40 percent shooter coming in, he shot 9-for-14 from the field. 

Landrum collected nine rebounds and blocked three shots. Nobili blocked three shots, too. Pushed around all season, BU’s bigs finally asserted themselves.

“We just played with more force,” Jones said. 

Speaking of blocked shots, the Terriers’ defense, spurred on by an always-roaring Jones, pounded like a drum. Lafayette shot 31.5 percent, by far its lowest output in conference play. It didn’t have a single double-digit scorer; it scored just 48 points, tied for its second-worst output of the year.

And it was worse than that. BU led 32-25 at the end of the first half, and out of the break, the Leopards made just one basket — one — in the first nine-and-a-half minutes of the second frame. They finished the half with just six field goals.

And here’s the thing — defensively, it wasn’t even a revelation. The Terriers have stifled opponents all season; BU is second in the Patriot League in points allowed and opponent field goal percentage. It has forced the fifth most turnovers and collected the third most defensive rebounds.

It’s a real shame that BU has struggled so much on the other end, because on defense, it has been as good as it gets in the conference. KenPom ranks the Terriers’ offense 336th in the country, but the defense? 187th.

But even with that backdrop, Saturday’s performance was especially dominant. Per Brian Maurer, Lafayette’s 48 points were the first time BU has held a D1 opponent to under 50 since November 16, 2021; that’s over two seasons ago.

It may have been baby steps for BU’s offense — and we’ve seen Jones’ team explode on offense this season before falling back into its same issues — but BU’s defense is so good that baby steps might be all the Terriers need.

The offense was, at best, just okay, and BU still won by 14, led by as many as 16 with three minutes left and shut down the Patriot League leaders on the road.

Who’s to say where BU goes from here; the Terriers have won multiple games in a row just once this season. Next up is Holy Cross, on the road, after just a day’s rest.

“Today, obviously, Otto delivered,” Jones said. “But (going forward) we’ve got to be able to attack people and not settle for early 3s.”

BU’s offense is finally, at least, moving in the right direction.

And with BU’s defense pushing it along, it might not have that far to go.