BOSTON, Mass. -- Boston University and Holy Cross started a new era of their in-state rivalry on Thursday as the Crusaders welcomed the Terriers to the Patriot League in front of what has to be a record (low) 153 people at BU's Agganis Arena. The preseason Patriot League favorites came out on top, earning a 70-60 win in a game that saw its game time moved up a day before due to the always uncooperative New England weather.
The less-than-optimal circumstances showed early as both teams struggled to gain traction in the first few minutes.
"I gotta give both teams credit," BU coach Joe Jones said. "Any time you change the time less than 24 hours before a game, and then they have to travel [in a snow storm]...it's hard. I thought it was a hard-fought game, it wasn't the best basketball game, but it was a hard-fought game."
The two teams combined to turn the ball over 36 times on Thursday as both teams saw their primary ballhandlers struggle to hold onto the ball. Holy Cross' Anthony Thompson and Justin Burrell combined for nine turnovers, equaling BU's tandem of D.J. Irving and Maurice Watson Jr. BU, in particular, prides itself on taking care of the ball and playing such a sloppy game contributed to what was a much closer game than it should have been.
Jones made the interesting decision -- which he did not offer a reason for -- to bring Irving off the bench and start the game with Watson and John Papale in the backcourt. Irving found a way to make an impact off the bench without scoring, however, which is a testament to his teammates as well his role as the team's elder statesman. The preseason Patriot League Player of the Year finished just 1-for-5 from the floor, but grabbed eight rebounds, handed out three assists and added two steals.
There was no need for one of Watson or Irving's outstanding games on this day, however, because the entire BU team was feeling it. Watson's 12 points were a team-high, but all nine BU players that touched the floor contributed points and made life tougher on the Crusaders defensively.
"This team has so many threats that there is not one person on this team I wouldn't pass to to score," said Watson, who handed out six assists on the day. "When everyone is doing something, when everyone is scoring, it makes it hard for a team to focus on just one. The more guys that are contributing the harder we will be to scout."
Foul Trouble Limits Crusaders
Holy Cross ran into some serious rotation issues thanks to foul troubles from Taylor Abt and Malachi Alexander. In the first half, Milan Brown's pair of forwards were limited to a combined 12 minutes with Alexander playing just three. In the second half, their roles flipped with Alexander playing nine minutes while Abt played three.
The area where that difference was felt the most was on the glass. BU out-rebounded Holy Cross 24-9 in the first half without Alexander and Abt in the game to support Dave Dudzinski. Alone in the paint, Dudzinski finished the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds, with seven of those boards coming in the second half when he had some help inside.
On the whole, Holy Cross is a bigger team than BU and should have gotten a better effort on the glass, but foul trouble has a way of changing how a team can play. The rebounding total evened out a bit in the second half with BU finishing with a 40-31 advantage on the glass, but when these teams meet again it should be a better whistle-to-whistle battle than this.