Watson pushes BU into Patriot semifinals

BOSTON -- The 915 fans who bought tickets to the Patriot League quarterfinal matchup between Boston University and Lafayette on Wednesday night got a special treat.

Free admission to the Maurice Watson Jr. show.

“Watson, he’s a terrific player,” Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “He controls the tempo, does everything for them. He’s as good as anybody in our league.”

The Terriers point guard may be only 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, but he plays a big game. Sporting a pair of bright-pink kicks against the Leopards, Watson was a blur.

He picked off a bounce entry pass and led a fast break, collapsing the defense and dishing to Malik Thomas for a layup. He turned the ball over, then immediately made up for it by grabbing a defensive rebound and, when no Leopards defender stopped him, steamed straight to the rim.

And when Nick Lindner turned a Thomas turnover into two quick points, Watson picked his teammate up. The Lansdowne, Pa., native used a nifty dribble to get his man backing up and drained a pull-up jumper.

BU coach Joe Jones, his team up nine, wanted more. He stamped his foot on the sideline and exhorted his Terriers, “Big stop! Big stop, right here!”

The Terriers responded with amped-up defense, and when the Leopards’ shot kicked off the rim, Watson grabbed it with both hands. As soon as his feet hit the ground, Watson was off and running the break. When a Lafayette defender was a little too close for comfort running back, Watson nonchalantly dribbled the ball behind his back to give himself more space, then hit Travis Robinson on the left wing for a wide-open 3.

O’Hanlon had seen enough and called timeout. Jones greeted Watson and the Terriers with a message: “That’s what I’m talking about!”

The Terriers led by 15 at the half, then ran away and hid in the second half to win 91-54 and advance to the semifinals of the Patriot League tourney. They’ll host Army on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET).

“I thought we were just locked in defensively tonight and it made everything else easier for us,” Jones said. “I was just really proud of the way we were ready to go tonight.”

The Terriers set school and Patriot League tournament records for shooting percentage (66.1), breaking the record Lafayette set in its first-round win over Loyola Maryland (63.6 percent). And the 91 points the Terriers flung up on the Leopards is the most they’ve scored in a tournament game since 1989 (when they scored 101).

Watson, second in the nation in assist rate according to kenpom.com, had a hand in seemingly every play.

“I just wanted to be super aggressive,” he said. “I felt like I had to come out and be one of the leaders for this team.”

When it was all said and done, the sophomore had a game-high 21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals.

That’s no surprise to senior tri-captain D.J. Irving.

“He’s been flirting with a triple-double since his freshman year,” Irving said. “So sooner or later he’s going to get it. Especially now, come playoff time, that’s when people raise their games, that’s when big-time players raise their game. It’s just a matter of time. He’ll probably get it next game.”

Just how well did things go for Watson on Wednesday night?

After he missed a running baseline jumper with time ticking down in the first half, his momentum carried him out of bounds, he tripped over a pair of cheerleaders and hit the deck. Rather than picking himself up, apologizing for landing in their laps and running off, Watson kept his seat and put both hands up.

And the cheerleaders, pompoms in hand, picked him up.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.