BU Men’s Basketball shows its willingness to grow once again in dominant win over American

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

You have to give it to BU. The Terriers have made plenty of mistakes, but they keep getting right back up.

It is becoming the story of this bewildering season. And head coach Joe Jones was not shy about this most recent chapter. The Terriers entered Bender Arena on Wednesday night behind a coach clearly frustrated with his team’s effort in its prior two games, and Jones had good reason. BU was straight up punched in the mouth at Army in a loss a week ago and then, despite winning, was caught sleep-walking at numerous points throughout Saturday’s matchup with Navy. “We just weren’t really physical,” Jones said after the win over the Mids.

He was — put it this way — quite a bit calmer relaying that message to the media than he was to his team on the court.

“We can be better, and I’m going to be looking for us to do that,” Jones added.

Well. Consider that challenge accepted.

BU (11-16, 7-8 PL) stormed out of the gates on Wednesday, pouncing on American (14-14, 8-7 PL) to gain a 17-point first half lead. The Terriers were everywhere defensively — dominant in the paint, handsy on the ball and physical off of it — and they were relentless. BU held the Eagles to just six points — six — in the first 14 minutes of the game.

“We just played with a lot of heart and a lot of effort,” Jones said after the 67-52 victory on Wednesday.

BU’s inability to defend opposing bigs was one of those points of frustration coming in, but the Terriers held forward Matt Rogers, only American’s leading scorer and the fourth-leading bucket-getter in the Patriot League, to nine points on 2-of-6 shooting.

“It was everybody,” Jones explained. “We were switching everything and just battling him. It was the whole team.”

At one point, three different Terriers elevated to block the same shot.

BU even picked itself back up within its pick-itself-back-up performance. The Terriers were lifeless coming out of the half. The 17-point lead shrunk to five three minutes into the second period, when senior guard Miles Brewster lost his man, allowing him to walk down the lane for an easy layup. 

Jones called a timeout.

“Miles was great tonight, but to start that half, he was not locked in,” Jones said.

BU proceeded to blitz the Eagles on a 20-5 run. Brewster made back-to-back 3-pointers to punctuate it.

“We regained our composure,” Jones said. One timeout was all it took.

Brewster, by the way, has learned a thing or two about picking himself back up this season. The unquestioned leader of a young, inexperienced team, the senior had never even played 20 minutes a night in his first three seasons at BU. Now he was, as an assistant coach called him before the season, “the king.”

It has been perilous, to say the least. Brewster leads the Terriers in scoring but has finished six games with five points or fewer. After his best stretch of the season, Brewster fell flat against Army and Navy, and his head coach noticed. “We’re going to need him to be better,” Jones admitted after the win over the Mids.

And wouldn’t you know it:

“Miles was unbelievable tonight,” Jones said. He finished with 16 points, made four 3-pointers and added two steals.

He has become the embodiment of the Terriers’ never-ending resilience. 

“The biggest thing with him is that he holds himself accountable,” Jones said. “If you say to him, you need to be competing harder, you need to be fighting harder, he understands that.”

“So then, it’s easy for him to lead,” Jones said, “because he always has that growth mindset.”

Guided along by Brewster, BU’s willingness to grow has done wonders. And it’s not just the Terriers ability to respond on a game-to-game basis.

From a birds eye view, this season has been one giant setback followed by one even bigger response. The Terriers were completely broken offensively to start conference play. In the first five games, BU shot the most 3-pointers of any Patriot League team and made them at the league’s second-lowest rate. But BU, young and inexperienced as it is, looked itself in the mirror and held itself accountable. The Terriers forced themselves to change — the guards willed themselves into the paint and the forwards asserted themselves in the post, regardless of the results — and now, with four games left before the Patriot League tournament, BU is consistently functional on offense. The brutal start could’ve been a fatal blow. Instead, BU is standing on its own two feet.

“We know who we are now,” Jones said.

Credit the Terriers for that. Credit this platoon of pupils — six of them Division I rookies — for holding themselves to a higher standard. They have been willing to learn in the face of struggles, big and small, time and time again. 

“This group should be commended because they’re so coachable,” Jones said. “They will buy into the message that I’m sending.”

The buy-in has been one thing. The going-out-and-doing-it? Entirely another. Brewster played two ugly games and didn’t lose an ounce of confidence; Anthony Morales, the only other healthy senior on the roster, dealt with bad injury luck all season, then dropped 17 points, collected 8 rebounds and took 2 steals on Wednesday. And the eight underclassmen around them, after being told they were out-toughed, out-strengthened and out-willed in the two games prior, showed up and mercilessly heckled their opponent for the better part of 40 minutes.

“If I say something,” Jones said, “they do it.”

The reward for this latest effort is significant. BU won its second game in a row for just the second time this season and vaulted itself into fifth-place in the Patriot League — only a game behind a tie for third. The Terriers are officially in the thick of things.

And they have only themselves to thank.

“They just want to win,” Jones said.