BOSTON -- Almost any time he’s on the floor, Maurice Watson Jr. finds himself looking up at the opposition. The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder hardly ever has a size advantage in the college game, but that’s OK by the sophomore and his teammates.
That's because Watson’s first step is unmatched.
With 41.0 seconds to go in the opener of the Coaches vs. Cancer tripleheader Sunday at TD Garden and Boston University up just one on crosstown rival Northeastern, Watson showed the devastating effect that speed can have. He dribbled down the clock with NU’s David Walker (6-6, 176 pounds) on him, thinking Watson was taking it down to the buzzer for a final shot. But then BU coach Joe Jones called Watson's number, and the point guard exploded past the bigger defender and streaked to the rim for a layup to make it 70-67.
“I’m never really worried about the player guarding me; it’s always the help defense that I’m worried about,” Watson said of the game-sealing play. “And all night they had slow rotations, so I knew if I could just get a good hit on the screen I could get a good drive.
“I saw that he was leaning, so I just chose to refuse [the screen] and do a little Euro-step. That was some improv at the last minute. I just wanted to take it strong to the hoop. If we were going to win that game, I wanted it to be on my shoulders.”
With BU’s offense struggling, Watson took matters into his own hands. The Philly native with the lightning-quick first step scored 10 points in the second half to rally the Terriers after the Huskies used a 25-12 run to take a 5-point lead with just about four minutes to go.
Though the Terriers may give up a few inches to their opponents this season, their first in the Patriot League, they say that doesn’t bother them.
“We don’t really think we have a size disadvantage,” senior D.J. Irving said after Sunday’s game. “I feel like we have more heart than every other team that we play against. So I’d rather have heart than height.”
Then Watson chimed in.
“You come together as one and you feel like nothing can break that wall that you’ve built with your team,” he said. “No matter how big, how fast, how good their shooters are. We just try to focus on playing for each other, and everything else will take care of itself.
“Bigger’s not always better. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.