BU gives UMass-Lowell rude awakening

BOSTON -- There are no guarantees in college basketball. On any given night, any team can beat any other team -- no matter its pedigree, or lack thereof.

That’s part of the beauty of the college game.

And that’s about the only hope that UMass-Lowell, in its first season at the Division I level after going 95-54 in the past five seasons in Division II, had Wednesday night against Boston University.

Maybe the Terriers, with a matchup at No. 19 UConn looming on Saturday, would overlook the River Hawks. Maybe Joe Jones’ crew, coming off a taut season-opening win over crosstown rival Northeastern at TD Garden, would come out flat against Pat Duquette’s transitioning program.

It was possible, but then the ball was tipped and the Terriers came out flying. They threw a press at the River Hawks, creating turnovers early and converting them into points.

Senior forward Dom Morris and sophomore point guard Maurice Watson Jr. each made his first six shots from the floor, combining for 30 first-half points, and the Terriers set a school record for points in the first half with 64.

“The press really helped get us going,” Jones said after the 91-65 win. “And then we did some things with the ball screen stuff that they probably hadn’t seen. ... I just thought we were able to turn ‘em over and get going.”

After the game, a reporter asked guard D.J. Mlachnik if it felt like the Terriers ambushed the River Hawks.

“That’s a good word,” Duquette joked, leaning over to Mlachnik.

“They did ambush us,” the sophomore said. “Turnovers, the way to beat that is settle down.”

And though the River Hawks did settle down in the second half, it was too little, too late.

Jones said he tried hard coming in to keep his players focused on the task at hand, to keep them from underestimating the River Hawks.

“I really try to approach each game the same,” he said. “I think if we got into talking about them transitioning themselves to Division I, then your guys are like one game they’re sky high, the next game [they’re low] ... we’ve got to kind of play the same way every night and that’s the challenge for me, to make sure they’re ready each and every night so one game we don’t go out and lay an egg.”

With a big lead, the Terriers weren’t nearly as crisp in the second half. They committed 10 turnovers in the second half, after committing just two in the first. But the lead, as large as 32, proved insurmountable.

Watson admitted after the game that the Terriers were aware that their opponents weren’t at their level.

“You always look at the team before, you see where they’re coming from, you look at their schedule, you look at their record,” he said. “To be consistent you just have to have great leadership. And I think our captains do a great job of preparing us the same way.”

With the win, BU starts the season 2-0 for the first time since 2000.

Morris finished with 27 points, a career high, and 10 rebounds. And Watson finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals.

The quick pace of the game clearly suited the speedy Watson.

“I love these kinds of games,” he said. “I hate games with a lot of free throws, a lot of stops, a lot of timeouts. ... Being able to run, speed the game up and keep that uptempo pace, you always want to play like that. You just try to wear teams down.”

It didn’t take long Wednesday for BU to wear down transitioning UMass-Lowell, turning a maybe into a certainty.

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