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Boston University gets the 40-minute effort they needed

February 10, 2014 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments
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BOSTON – The final box score shows Boston University beating Lafayette 88-54. Dig a little deeper and you understand how the score got to be that way. But watch Saturday’s game at Agganis Arena and you understand it better, as well as why it was so satisfying for this team, as it’s the type of effort they’ve needed.

“We had been talking about trying to put together two halves, trying to play consistently well for 40 minutes,” said head coach Joe Jones. “We’ve struggled with that at times. So tonight, it was great to see us play a complete game from start to finish.”

This was complete domination by Boston University. They shot over 56 percent from the field, including 11-25 on three-pointers, while holding Lafayette below 33 percent and 6-21, respectively. Both figures for Lafayette were the Leopards’ second-lowest figures of the season. The Terriers had 21 assists and nine turnovers, while forcing 20 Leopard turnovers. They had a 48-20 edge in points in the paint, a 23-2 edge in points off turnovers and a 36-15 bench scoring advantage.

Their leading scorer on the afternoon was Justin Alston with 17 points on 8-10 shooting. Coming into the game, he had scored 16 points in his first 11 Patriot League games. Their starting guards had 15 assists with just one turnover to lead the charge in those categories.

The Terriers also never trailed and started both halves hot from the field en route to shooting over 50 percent in each half. In other words, they didn’t just ride one hot stretch to some good numbers. This was a 40-minute effort of running good offense, getting easy baskets and taking Lafayette completely out of what they wanted to do.

Jones has been trying to get games like this from a team that’s capable of them ever since last year. Even while the Terriers won, he was on them about handling success and realizing that a full 40-minute effort is what is needed to win. It’s often tough for 18 to 22-year-old kids to understand that just because you’re winning doesn’t mean there aren’t areas for improvement. When the wins are coming, it’s easy to think there’s no work to do because the effort has been good enough.

A week earlier, this may have manifest itself in a tough fashion as they dropped a tough one at home to Lehigh in overtime. The Mountain Hawks were starting to come to life after struggling at the outset of Patriot League play, but that was still a game you figure the Terriers should win. While BU lost a lot of close games last season, they have turned that around this season as they have gone from 0-5 in one-possession games to 5-1.

Since that time, however, the Terriers seem to have locked in. They went on the road and beat Navy by double digits in a defensive struggle, then blew out Lafayette on Saturday. They have clearly bounced back from the tough loss, and Jones found a lesson for himself.

“We had won so many close games in a similar fashion, it’s hard to get that message across,” said Jones. “You’ve got to take one on the chin sometimes to really understand.”

Jones said that as he saw the team having some trouble in the second half of games, he changed some of the practices. Some things he did in the past are being put aside to have more competitive parts of practice. Just as games are competitive all the way through, his hope is to make practices the same way so they get in the habit of competing every second.

“I hope that’s helping our guys maintain their focus,” Jones added.

It certainly seemed to do that on Saturday, but the story will be told in the games to come. Four of the Terriers’ final six regular season games are on the road, and one of the two home games is against American, who lost on Saturday to even the league race. One of those road games is at Army, who is nipping at their heels as well.

Saturday’s win is big for this team in some obvious ways. The scoreboard showed it, as did the box score. It’s the kind of game this team has needed for a while regardless of the actual score. And as such, it provides a roadmap to success the rest of the season.

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