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Cold Shooting Dooms Mids Against Terriers

Navy’s win over Lafayette on Wednesday night demonstrated why the team was expected to be a contender in the Patriot League at the beginning of the season. The Mids got 45 points from their starting backcourt, including Bryce Dulin’s game-winner at the buzzer. It was the kind of performance that head coach Ed DeChellis expected from his veteran team.

It’s not the performance that he got on Saturday afternoon. George Kiernan scored 22 points, and Tom Lacey recorded a double-double, but the rest of the team shot a combined 14-41 from the floor as Navy (13-8, 4-4 Patriot) fell to Boston University, 75-68, in Alumni Hall. Javante McCoy had 16 points for the visiting Terriers (10-9, 6-2), who maintained their hold on second place in the conference.

“I was proud of our guys,” said BU head coach Joe Jones. “We came off one of our worst performances the other night against American after we had played well. I was just concerned about our guys not losing confidence, not losing their focus. I was pleased with what I saw tonight. It was a focused team from start to finish.”

Jones had good reason to be excited, getting the win despite limited playing time from his two leading scorers. Cedric Hankerson, who came into the game averaging 14.4 ppg, went down with a hamstring injury only five minutes into the first half and did not return. Sophomore forward Max Mahoney was limited to just 16 minutes, but still scored nine points.

“That shows you the depth of our team,” said Jones. “You’re going to have injuries. You’re going to have some guys not play well. You’re going to need some other guys to step up. The good thing for us is that I feel like whoever I put on the floor, when they’re focused, can help us.”

It was a different story for the home team, whose erratic play left their head coach visibly frustrated.

“We have so much inconsistency in our guys. I’ve got to try to get them to play more consistent, and that’s been very challenging,” said DeChellis.

“It’s very tough,” said Kiernan. “Now we’re sitting at .500 in the Patriot League and lost two games at home. It’s certainly not the way you want to start the first wave of Patriot League games.”

Navy is a team that likes to drive to the basket, something that is more challenging against the Terriers’ 2-3 zone. DeChellis prepared his team for BU’s defensive approach, and it appeared to work. Navy was able to get good ball movement around the perimeter to set up cutters for open shots in the paint, but those shots didn’t fall. The first half was especially discouraging for the Mids, who at one point missed ten straight shots from the floor.

“We worked on it for two days,” said DeChellis. “We put in a new zone offense for it. We had open shots; we just couldn’t make them. We got the ball inside some. We missed a lot of one-foot shots.”

“I think we got good shots in the first half,” said Kiernan. “We got good looks from where we should be able to score. We’re struggling shooting the ball right now.”

“We just tried to keep them in front of us, tried to make sure we were doing a good job along the baseline,” said Jones. “That’s where they look to hurt you. They like to throw it to the baseline and cut guys through, which is a little unique from what other people do against zone. You’ve got to be ready for that.”

Navy took a 4-2 lead in the game’s opening minutes after Lacey and Evan Wieck each scored underneath the basket after grabbing offensive rebounds. BU then switched to their zone, and Navy went cold. The Terriers went on an 11-0 run, taking a 13-4 lead after Eric Johnson’s three-pointer with 12:05 remaining in the half. A pair of Kiernan free throws ended Navy’s drought, but the Terriers scored six of the next eight points to open an 11-point lead.

After struggling to hit outside shots for most of the half, the Mids finally got a few to fall. Kiernan hit a jumper at the 7:30 mark, then Cam Davis and Hasan Abdullah made back-to-back three-pointers to cut the lead to four at 22-18. Navy’s defense seemed to feed off of that momentum, and after BU committed four turnovers in their last ten possessions in the half, Navy went into halftime trailing by only two, 29-27.

Navy came out of the locker room and scored three quick points. Wieck scored on a layup on the Mids’ opening possession, then Lacey made one of two free throws on their next trip down the court to give Navy a 30-29 lead. The lead would be short-lived, as BU’s Tyler Scanlon scored 28 seconds later to retake the lead for the Terriers. Those would be the first points of a 9-2 run over the next 3:09 to open the lead to six, at 38-32.

BU briefly switched back to a man-to-man defense after Kiernan made his second three-pointer of the half with 13:09 to play, and Navy immediately took advantage by driving to the basket. Shawn Anderson brought the Mids back to within one with 7:23 to play, but the Mids couldn’t complete the comeback. McCoy drained a three-pointer on the next BU possession. Navy turned the ball over on their next two trips down the court after the Terriers switched back to the 2-3 zone. The second of those turnovers led to a fast-break dunk by McCoy to give BU a 57-51 lead with 5:19 to play. The Terriers were able to keep Navy at arm's length the rest of the way.

“Overall I was pleased with our play,” said Jones. “We got a lot of guys that contributed in different ways. Obviously, Javante McCoy scored it really well today. We had three guys in double figures. We played without Ced [Hankerson] for a good portion of the game. We played without Max [Mahoney], our two leading scorers, for good portions of the game, and were able to win the game on the road. I think that’s a nice sign for us.”

DeChellis, on the other hand, hoped that the loss would create a sense of urgency in his seniors.

“Time’s wasting on these seniors. I’ve tried to say to them, it’s going to go just like this,” he said, snapping his fingers. “You’re going to be down to a few games. You’d better understand that.”