WORCESTER — The Boston University men’s basketball team wasn’t into sharing Saturday afternoon.
The Terriers entered their Patriot League finale at the Hart Center against Holy Cross guaranteed a share of the regular-season conference title, but with their lead over American University at just one game, they had a simple task: Take care of business against the Crusaders and claim the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage for the conference tournament.
Behind a team-high 15 points from senior D.J. Irving and 14 from senior Dom Morris, BU topped Holy Cross, 68-64, to win the league outright. The conference title is the program’s first since 2004, when it won the America East crown.
“I think they have to celebrate it to some degree,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “But I think they have to stay focused. They can’t let this be the end-all mentally. I think they understand that. We know this was one of the goals, to win the regular season and to get the home-court advantage, but now it doesn’t mean anything unless we’re ready to go Wednesday [in the quarterfinals].”
The key sequence came in the final 10 seconds. Holy Cross (18-12, 12-6) had possession and was trailing by 2 when BU senior Travis Robinson made the steal of the game against Anthony Thompson.
Following a timeout, the Crusaders fouled Irving on the inbounds pass, and he sank both free throws to solidify the win for BU (22-9, 15-3).
“I like that moment,” Irving said. “That moment is the time I thrive. I don’t really feel pressure at those times, I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do. So I just go out there and do it.”
The free throws capped an impressive final stretch for the 6-foot guard. Sophomore point guard Maurice Watson Jr. was in foul trouble late, so Irving took over the floor.
At first, though, Jones didn’t realize how many fouls Watson had.
“I kind of screwed up,” Jones said. “I didn’t know he had picked up two quick ones, and I was going to kill myself if we lost the game because of it. D.J. really stepped up when Mo came out and made big plays.”
The first half was tight despite Holy Cross shooting 33 percent from the floor to BU’s 46 percent. The Terriers jumped out to a 7-point lead, but a 10-0 Crusader run midway through the half kept it close, with BU holding a 30-28 advantage at the break. Senior Dave Dudzinski had half of the Crusaders’ points.
Dudzinski hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the start of the second half, but the Terriers held him to just 3 more points. He finished with a game-high 20.
BU went on an 18-5 run, capped by Morris’s mid-range jumper, to take a 56-48 lead with eight minutes to play, but the Crusaders continued to chip away, closing to within 2 before Robinson’s steal.
Holy Cross won six of its final eight games to earn the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.
“This is the start of the third season, that’s what I told the team,” said coach Milan Brown. “Right now, this wipes the slate clean. The guys will come over to my house tomorrow, my wife will cook for everybody, and we’ll relax.”