BU's Morris makes sizable impact

BOSTON -- Dom Morris has always been big.

Morris is 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, and with a thick trunk and powerful limbs looks like he’d be just as comfortable on a football field as he is on a basketball court.

On Wednesday night, the senior BU forward used his large frame to dominate in the post against the overmatched defenders of UMass-Lowell -- most of whom were giving up at least a couple of inches in height and 30 pounds to Morris. He made his first six shots, and hit 12 of 15 shots for the game, throwing himself at the rim after using a variety of post moves to outmaneuver and overpower the River Hawks.

But Morris’ size hasn’t always been an asset.

“I know my first two years I wasn’t in the best shape, a little overweight,” Morris admitted after scoring a career-high 27 points in BU’s 91-65 win. “And then when Coach [Joe] Jones got here, he wanted to try something new. He always believed that I was a great player and was very skilled. I knew I was skilled, but I didn’t see what he saw in me.

“He asked me to sacrifice and do certain things to change my habits and my body. ... I just listened to him and right now I can’t believe the way I am.”

Morris finished with a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds against UMass-Lowell, his seventh career double-double. It was the second solid outing for the hefty upperclassman, after a 12-point, 4-rebound outing against Northeastern in the Terriers’ 72-69 season-opening win.

“I never thought I would be like this,” he said postgame Wednesday, sitting next to the coach he credits with challenging him to get into better shape. “It’s great. I appreciate it.”

The Terriers appreciate that Morris, a tri-captain along with D.J. Irving and Travis Robinson, decided to take Jones up on the challenge. BU needed the post presence he provides to balance out its offense -- which Jones said was a little heavy on 3-pointers in 2012-13 -- and improve its defense.

Morris led five Terriers in double figures against the River Hawks, with Maurice Watson Jr. (18), Robinson (11), Nathan Dieudonne (10) and Cedric Hankerson (10) all reaching double digits.

That’s the kind of balanced scoring Jones wants to see in 2013-14, BU’s first season in the Patriot League.

“I think the strength of our team is that we’re a pretty balanced team in terms of guys that can score,” he said. “I never go into a game saying, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta get Dom going’ or ‘I’ve gotta get DJ going’ or ‘I’ve gotta get Mo going.’ We’re gonna go play the game and then just take what the defense gives us. I don’t worry so much about who’s scoring as much as if we’re getting good shots.

“Tonight it was Dom, we went inside to him, he had some success and we kept going to him. ... We’re more talented than we were last year. So the challenge now is can we go out and play freely and not worry about who’s scoring and just go play the game the right way.”

Watson, the speedy sophomore who’s second on the team in scoring through two games at 17.0 points per game, praised BU’s captains for not allowing a letdown against the River Hawks. UMass-Lowell is in the first year of its transition to a Division I program.

It all goes back to their overall mindset for the season, the mindset they’ll carry into their next game Sunday at No. 19 UConn.

“We just feel like we still have a chip on our shoulder,” Watson said. “Especially coming from last year, where we couldn’t have the chance to make it to the tournament. And now we’re the No. 1 in preseason [in the Patriot League], so we know we have this target on our backs.

“So [it’s] just coming in consistently, and I think that starts in practice. We try to practice the same way, that way we come out in the game the same way. If we just stay consistent then we know that nobody’s gonna be able to really stop us.”

Morris has always been a big part of BU’s plans, but with a consistent focus on fitness the senior’s put himself in position to make a huge contribution.

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