Boston University 71, Colgate 68: Streaking Terriers Win Inside

Colgate’s smaller lineups were hot from three-point range, but Boston University was too big in the frontcourt Wednesday night. The Terriers’ forwards led them to a 71-68 victory at Case Gymnasium, their seventh straight win.

Eric Fanning makes a layup in the second half of Wednesday's game.

Eric Fanning makes a layup in the second half of Wednesday’s game.

The Terriers (10-5 Patriot) shot 21-32 on two-pointers, including 10 efficient points apiece from Nick Havener and Blaise Mbargorba. On the other end, they held Colgate (8-7) to 11-35 inside the arc, blocking eight shots (one off their season high) and allowing a 19% offensive rebound rate. They did so without their top frontcourt scorer and rebounder, Nathan Dieudonne, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. (Justin Alston, the team’s original starting center, has also been out since December.)

Colgate’s outside shooting won the battle early on: The Raiders shot 7-14 from distance in the first half and 11-25 for the game, including six treys from senior Austin Tillotson. They even drew the Terriers into a fast-paced playground game of pull-up three-pointers, which the visitors led by two points at halftime.

But BU went back inside down the stretch. With seven minutes remaining, Havener threw down a tip slam to break a 52-52 tie. On the next possession, Eric Fanning posted up on the left block, spun past a defender for a layup and drew a soft three-point play. Havener finished the mini-run with another post-up, giving the Terriers a comfortable lead.

“Coach [Shaun] Morris at the half was telling us, none of them are shot-blockers, none of them are rebounders, so we can dominate them in the paint. And we all took advantage of that,” Havener said.

The hosts continued to attack the paint down the stretch, including a crafty put-back by Mbargorba and a late jumper by Dylan Haines. And they defended it on the other end, blocking three shots in the final six minutes. BU made things interesting with poor free-throw shooting down the stretch, and Colgate consistently found open three-pointers, but its shots stopped falling.

Nick Havener hangs on the rim after throwing down a tip slam.

Nick Havener hangs on the rim after throwing down a tip slam.

With the loss, the Raiders remain in fifth place, one game behind Navy for fourth (and a home game in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals) with three games to play. BU, the league’s hottest team despite its injuries, is in second alongside Lehigh — and it can tie Bucknell at the top with a win in Sojka Pavilion this weekend.

“They’ve become a tough team. I think all the adversity they’ve faced with their injuries has really increased their toughness over the course of this season,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “Some guys who were not contributing a lot, who’ve been forced into a role, have found a way to step up and help their team. I think that’s become their identity, to just find a way, and that’s impressive.”

Three more thoughts from Boston:

1. Austin Tillotson came to play. Tillotson is on pace for an All-Patriot League season, ranking second in scoring and assists in conference play, but his three-point shooting had been well below his usual standards (31% entering Wednesday). He fixed that in a hurry, making six of eight threes and dropping a game-high 28 points. Tillotson ended the first half with three straight treys off the dribble, staring down the BU bench after his shots. “I just got a little hot. I was looking for my shot, it felt good when I was releasing it, so I kept going to it,” he said.

2. Dylan Haines is the next man up for BU. The seven-foot Haines spent most of his first two seasons on the bench, but the Terriers’ injuries have forced him into regular action this month. He made the most of it against Colgate, scoring nine points on 4-6 shooting with seven rebounds and three blocks. Haines showed good instincts in the post and hit a pick-and-pop three-pointer under pressure. His hands are still shaky, though, as he committed three turnovers in 20 minutes. “He played great,” BU coach Joe Jones said. “To have guys like this stepping up like they are, it’s tremendous, it’s a great feeling.”

3. The Patriot League is back to square one. Never mind how we got here; the top three teams in the preseason poll are now the top three teams in the standings. Lehigh’s win at Navy brought the Mountain Hawks to 10-5 — on a six-game win streak of their own — tied with BU and a game behind Bucknell. All three teams are in good shape to host a quarterfinal game, but the regular-season title and home-court advantage in the later rounds are still very much up for grabs.