Boston University Falls to Illinois in First Round of NIT

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Boston University's DJ Irving
Boston University's DJ Irving

March 19, 2014

From Boston University Athletic Communications

BOSTON - The seventh-seeded Boston University men's basketball team was edged by second-seeded Illinois, 66-62, in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) on Wednesday night at Agganis Arena.

The Terriers led, 33-24, at halftime and had a 61-54 lead with less than four minutes to play, but Illinois (20-14) closed on a 12-1 run to escape with the victory. BU, the Patriot League regular-season champion, finished its inaugural season in the conference with a 24-11 record.

Sophomore Maurice Watson Jr. needed just three assists to set a new single-season school record and dished out a game-high 12 to finish the year with 246 helpers, easily surpassing the previous Patriot League mark of 225. Senior D.J. Irving led the Terriers with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Classmate Dom Morris and sophomore John Papale joined Irving in double-figures with 10 points each.

After a 1-of-17 performance behind the arc in the Patriot League title game, BU shot 44 percent (11-of-25) from 3-point range on Wednesday, with Papale, senior Travis Robinson and freshman Cedric Hankerson each knocking down a pair to go along with Irving's four. The Terriers shot 42.6 percent from the field and eight different players got on the board.

With the Illini trailing by four and just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Rayvonte Rice, who finished with a game-high 28 points, earned a steal and completed a three-point play to cut the Terriers' lead to one at 61-60. After a Papale miss, Rice was fouled going to the basket and made both free throws to give Illinois its first lead since it led, 7-6, with 14:34 left in the first half.

Following a BU turnover, Rice made a layup before Irving drew contact going to the rim. He made 1-of-2 from the line, but the Illini missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on the ensuing possession and the Terriers regained possession. Head coach Joe Jones called a timeout with 13.7 seconds left and drew up a play for Morris underneath, but the senior was unable to absorb the contact and convert the layup. Illinois sank its final two free throws to seal the win.

Boston University dominated most of the first half, jumping out to a 30-13 lead and taking a 33-24 advantage into the break. The Terriers saw their lead trimmed to 55-53, but pushed its back to seven before Illinois used the game-closing run to earn the win.

The Terriers fell to 0-6 in the NIT in their first appearance since 2005. It was the first time that a Patriot League team lost its first-round game, as Fordham (1991), Holy Cross (2005) and Bucknell (2012) all won their NIT openers.