Opinion: Another blown lead; another missed chance. Will BU Men’s Basketball ever turn the corner?

Featured image by Jacob Ireland

By Henry Dinh-Price

WORCESTER, Mass. – 20 minutes of the best basketball we’ve seen from BU all season. Only to be followed by a second-half collapse, something that has become all too familiar for the Terriers. 

BU (8-14, 3-6 PL) got off to a blazing start against Holy Cross (6-16, 3-6 PL) on Monday. Through 13 minutes, the Terriers had already scored 29 points in front of a packed house at the Hart Center.

At halftime, BU led 37-33 while shooting 14-for-29 from the field and 5-for-9 from 3. 

Back cuts, aggressive drives to the rim, extra passes setting up wide-open 3s. It was an offensive clinic.  

“We were terrific. We were terrific,” Jones said. “We were playing to our identity.

“The first half of the year, whatever you wanna call it, you know we were settling a ton, hoping that we shoot the ball better and we were kinda playing to get 3s off, to be honest with you,” Jones continued. “We’ve tried to change our identity, and we’ve tried to go to the basket more, and put more pressure on the paint, and I thought in the first half we played our best half.” 

But it’s a 40-minute game, and the last 20 were ugly at best. 

8-for-31 shooting, 2-of-11 from 3. Just 26 points. 

If that’s not bad enough, try seven-and-a-half minutes of scoreless basketball. How about 14 missed field goals in a row?

The Terriers looked like they were playing at Dick’s Sporting Goods, with a literal lid over the basket. 

Seven blocks from Holy Cross junior forward Caleb Kenney had the same effect. 

“I thought Kenney’s blocked shots really changed the momentum of the game,” Jones said. 

But when Kenney wasn’t affecting shots at the rim, the Terriers defaulted to settling for difficult jump shots, something Jones has tried so hard to stray away from as of late. 

“We reverted back to what we’re trying not to do,” Jones said. “It’s hard not to do it when there’s pressure, right? You’re just trying to score, you’re not thinking about your identity.” 

BU has collapsed before, but a 19-3 Holy Cross run over 10 minutes of play in the second half summed up the most brutal stretch of BU’s season.  

The once potent Terrier offense completely lost their way in the second frame. 

“I have to find a way to get the ball inside. Deeper. Right now, we’re catching it, you know, 10 feet (away) and we’re dribbling 18 times a score. That’s not good offense,” Jones said. 

And as the offense faltered, the defense failed to get stops. At one point, Holy Cross made seven of its last eight shots.

“We gotta focus on what we can control. We can control our energy and effort on the defensive end in the second half games. That’s what we should be thinking about,” Jones said. 

BU got punched in the mouth, giving up its lead for the first time all game with 9:41 remaining. And it didn’t have a counter move. The Terriers stayed on the ropes, taking haymakers until Holy Cross had built up a 9-point lead. 

After that, the BU offense couldn’t get enough going to complete a comeback, falling 65-63.  

A second half collapse? It’s been the story throughout conference play for the Terriers. It’s only fitting that after BU’s best half all season, it still found a way to lose. 

If basketball were only a 20-minute game, BU would be 6-2-1 in Patriot League play. Of those six games in which the Terriers led at the half, they have only won once – on Saturday at Lafayette. 

After the first half against Holy Cross, it looked like BU would follow up that win against Lafayette with a second-straight. But when it mattered most, the Terriers folded. Yet another setback in what has been a tumultuous season. 

“We’re this close to turning the corner, but you gotta keep going. It’s hard. It’s hard to win one game. It’s hard.” Jones said. 

But will BU ever turn that corner? To do so, it will have to rattle off multiple wins in a row, a feat it has struggled to achieve this season. 

BU is just 1-7 in games following a win. The only victory? A 60-58 win over Loyola Maryland (4-17, 2-6 PL). It took heroics – 17 points in the final 8:12 from senior forward Anthony Morales — to squeak out a victory.

“We were lucky to win that game,” Jones said. “Morales was unbelievable.”

Simply put, BU hasn’t played a complete game following a win this season. And now deep in the hole, sitting in eighth place halfway through Patriot League play, time is running out on the Terriers. 

Sure, progress is nice. A win over first-place Lafayette on Saturday, followed by 20 minutes of outstanding play is a better 60-minute stretch than any other this season. 

“We’ve shown that we can play,” Jones said.

But without a win to show for their performance in Worcester, BU squandered a chance to pick up some much-needed momentum against a struggling conference opponent. 

And until BU shows that it can rattle off three or four wins in a row, the progress won’t be more than a consolation prize for the 2023-24 edition of the Terriers.