BOSTON -- For the first 36 minutes of a matchup between the past two America East champions, one team played like it could be a champion again. The other didn’t.
Boston University was getting dominated on the Agganis Arena parquet by visiting Vermont, falling behind by as many as 19 points, committing silly fouls and careless turnovers.
“I did not think that we were ready to play tonight,” a clearly disappointed Joe Jones said afterward.
They were 0-for-10 on 3-pointers until D.J. Irving pulled up and hit one from behind the arc with 4:01 to go in the game. That cut the Catamounts’ lead to 14.
It had been a frustrating night for Darryl Partin to that point. He missed shots in just about every way imaginable: layups bounced off the rim, jumpers rattled in and then out, 3-pointers hit the backboard and nothing else. He even had one 3 stick between the side of the rim and the backboard.
But after two Vermont free throws, he hit a 3 of his own. Vermont missed on the other end, and Partin nailed another 3. Suddenly the deficit was 10.
Jones dialed up the pressure with a full-court press, which clearly rattled the Catamounts. Vermont turned the ball over, Partin hit another 3 and the deficit was seven.
Later the press forced another turnover by Vermont, Irving missed a layup but Partin cleaned the glass, made a layup of his own and converted the and-1 to cut it to five. With the game suddenly close down the stretch, the teams traded baskets until a Partin steal produced an Irving layup to cut the Vermont lead to just one with 20 seconds to go.
Vermont’s Four McGlynn broke the press and scored on the break to push the lead back to three, though he missed the and-1 free throw that would’ve made it a two-possession game.
That gave BU one last gasp. With 11 seconds left, Irving found space at the top of the key and launched a 3 to tie it. It rimmed out. The rebound somehow found Partin, who ducked behind the line and fired his own 3 with four seconds to go. It kicked out.
Mike Terry Jr. corralled the rebound and hit a short jumper but it was too little, too late.
“We made a valiant effort at the end …,” Jones said. “The guys really fought back, they played with a lot of heart and pride, as they always do, but we obviously didn’t make enough plays to win it.”
The Terriers lost 68-67.
“No excuses,” Partin said. “They’re a very good team. We didn’t play up to our potential at all, but they’re a very good team.”
Though they had a shot to win it at the end, this game was lost in the first half.
“That was one of our worst halfs of the year, without question,” Partin said of the first, when the Terriers shot just 32.1 percent and turned the ball over nine times. “We weren’t ready to go right away. That’s on us.”
The loss drops the Terriers (11-13, 7-3) to third place in America East, behind Stony Brook (14-7, 9-1) and Vermont (14-10, 8-2).
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.