By Brian Willwerth
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Boston University men’s basketball team in the first half of the America East championship game against Stony Brook, but with five minutes remaining in the half, the Terriers scored seven points. Seven. They were 0-for-10 from behind the arc, which was quite shocking.
Early in the second half, they were looking at a 15-point deficit.
Then the conference player of the year took over.
Senior John Holland, playing in his final home game, single-handedly brought the Terriers back. He scored 14 straight points to put BU back within striking distance. Ultimately, it was his two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining that lifted the Terriers over the Seawolves, 56-54, at Agganis Arena. With the win, BU earns the automatic berth to the “Big Dance,” its first ticket since 2002. Holland finished with 27 points, 23 of them coming in the game-changing second half.
With the game tied at 54 in the final minute, the Terriers forced a held ball situation and got the ball on the alternate possession. Holland got the ball down low on a back-door cut, and was fouled with just a few ticks left on the clock. His two free throws gave BU its first lead of the game, much to the delight of the 3,845 fans in attendance at Agganis Arena.
But the Terriers still held their collective breath, as the Seawolves got one last chance to win it. Bryan Dougher launched a half-court shot that hit the back of the rim and bounced off, a shot eerily similar of the one from Butler’s Gordon Hayward at the end of last year’s NCAA title game. But like Hayward’s, Dougher’s was no good, and the celebration began on Commonwealth Ave.
Head coach Patrick Chambers has his team in the tournament in just his second season. His team is riding an 11-game winning streak. The Terriers will be a heavy underdog against whoever their first opponent will be.
But for the moment, he’s put BU basketball back on the map.