BU suffers brutal home loss in Patriot final
March, 12, 2014
By Jack McCluskey | ESPN.com
Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY SportsMaurice Watson Jr. and D.J. Irving didn't mask their dismay after the Terriers lost to American.BOSTON -- Maurice Watson Jr. couldn't watch anymore.
Sitting on the bench after the buzzer had sounded and American's boisterous, blue-clad fans stormed the Agganis Arena floor to celebrate a 55-36 win and an NCAA berth with the delirious Eagles, BU's sophomore point guard put both hands over his eyes.
Watson looked up when the Terriers' three senior co-captains joined coach Joe Jones at half court to accept the Patriot League tournament runner-up trophy, but seeing D.J. Irving, Dom Morris and Travis Robinson posing with a memento of their NCAA dreams imploding was too much to take.
Watson got up, pivoted as if he were making a move in the lane and headed for the locker room. He handed off his all-tournament team trophy, returned his hands to his watery eyes and, as he entered the tunnel, gave the wall a loud smack with his right hand.
The Terriers -- unanimous preseason pick to win the Patriot League, regular-season champions and record-setting offensive juggernaut in the first two rounds of the league tourney -- ended the night dejected, subjected to watching their chief rival all season long cut down the nets on their home court.
American, the tourney's No. 2 seed looking for its first road win in Patriot League tournament history, ran out to a quick lead and never really looked back.
To say the Terriers started the game cold from the floor is to say the Atlantic Ocean is wet.
BU missed 15 of its first 18 shots, including seven of its first eight 3-pointers, and to add injury to insult bricked its first two free throws. American, led by junior Darius Gardner (18 points) and senior Tony Wroblicky (15 points, 8 rebounds), hummed along at about 50 percent from the field.
Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY SportsWatson Jr. scored 11 points and handed out five assists but also committed seven turnovers.
"I guess you start to second-guess yourself," Morris said of the poor shooting start. "I felt as though we settled too much in the beginning, and then when we got wide-open looks; some of the guys who normally hit shots they might've second-guessed themselves because they missed the first few shots they took."
Jones didn't sugarcoat it afterward.
"I thought the moment got the most of us," he said. "In games of this magnitude, sometimes that happens. I thought we were in a good place coming into the game, I thought I had a pretty good read on our guys. But I just thought we played anxious the whole night, we didn't settle down, we didn't settle in, we didn't play our game."
Every time it seemed the Terriers were about to make a run, whether off an American miss or a turnover (of which the Eagles had 17), their offense would inevitably grind to a stop.
BU set a Patriot League record for fewest points in a final with 36, by far its lowest total of the season (previous low was 53).
Irving credited American, the Patriot's best defense all season long, with creating and executing a great game plan.
"They definitely played pretty good defense," he said, quietly. "They were all over us from the start of the game. And we just didn't have an answer for it."
After roaring to big wins over Lafayette and Army in the quarterfinals and semifinals, setting new Patriot League tournament records for shooting percentage and scoring 91 points in each, the Terriers just didn't have the touch Wednesday. Shot after shot went awry, bouncing in and then spinning out, kicking off iron and, on more than one occasion, missing everything but backboard.
"We took bad shots. We took contested shots. We took quick shots," Jones said, rattling off the reasons for the shooting woes. "Again, I haven't seen us play like that in a long time. Every time we took one, I kept thinking, 'All right, we're not gonna take another one like that.' And then we took another."
BU finished the night 16-for-52 overall and an abysmal 1-for-17 on 3s. The Terriers converted the Eagles' 17 turnovers into just nine points. Watson led the Terriers with 11 points (on 5-for-10 shooting) and five assists but had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers.
"I think we were all waiting for that one shot to happen, to kinda ignite us and get us going," Jones said. "That's was the one thing that had happened, especially in the previous two games. We'd go make a play, and then all of a sudden we'd get going. But you can't rely on that in these types of game. You've gotta play consistent basketball, and we didn't do a good job of that."
In his final home game as a Terrier, Irving finished 1-for-10.
Clearly crushed, his dreams of bookending his college career with Big Dance appearances dashed, Irving struggled to answer when asked what he'll take away from the disappointing loss to end his four years on Commonwealth Ave.
"I mean, you can't really regret anything," he said after a moment. "I did all I could while I was here. It just didn't end the way I wanted it to."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.