Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stat of the Week


That would be Binghamton’s performance from beyond the arc in the Bearcats71-57 loss to Central Connecticut State. Kevin Broadus’ transfers have athleticism and raw skills the likes of which Binghamton has never seen, but the Bearcats are not a complete team. Even ignoring team chemistry and its importance to the offense, the Bearcats are arguably the worst three-point shooting team in America East. More generally, D.J. Rivera and Tiki Mayben have struggled to generate efficient offense, often trying to do all the work by themselves instead of distributing the load more evenly.

Wednesday’s 0-of-19 performance would have been bad enough by itself, but the Bearcats have played fast and loose with the basketball, wasting additional scoring chances. The Bearcats have enough talent to compete – and defeat – any opponent in America East, but if Binghamton eschews basketball fundamentals none of that talent will shine through. Saturday’s win against Utah Valley is a positive step; whether the Bearcats will improve further or revert to bad habits remains to be seen.

Around the League: 11.30.08

Sunday's games:

Monday's games:
Bryant vs. Albany, 7:00 p.m.
Binghamton vs. Quinnipiac, 7:00 p.m.

The Day After: Mount St. Mary's 78, BU 69

You’ll have to excuse us because none of us were able to make it out to The Mount, or see the game, so this version of The Day After may seem a bit choppy/riddled with box score analysis.

The first thing that jumps out is BU’s deficit on the boards. After fighting and clawing their way to win the rebounding margin against a more athletic, taller Northeastern squad, it appears as though the Terriers got outworked by the defending NEC Champion Mountaineers and weren’t able to control the tempo of the game — something they did very well against the Huskies. Granted Jake O’Brien isn’t going to lead the Terriers in rebounds every night (despite his size), but Jeff Pelage, for having played eight minutes, should have come up with at least one board, albeit against a much larger MSM team. Coupled with the fact that Scott Brittain played five minutes (and is one of the team’s better defensive rebounders), it becomes clear why BU lost the battle. What’s not clear is if the Terriers can win these types of games when they don’t shoot as well as they did against Northeastern. It could be a legitimate concern and bring the team directly back where it was a season ago, front-court-wise, if the rebounding doesn’t improve.

What’s also a concern is that with the exception of two fantastic plays in the second half against Northeastern, Tyler Morris hasn’t looked himself. Saturday night, BU coach Dennis Wolff took action. BU’s starting point guard logged just 13 minutes and failed to record a point or an assist, while backup point guard Marques Johnson stepped in and notched three dimes. Prior to the start of the season, Morris said he was completely healthy and he appears to be so in practice, so it’s odd to see his performance suffer so much on a game night as opposed to during drills. Perhaps he still needs more time to return to his Rookie of the Year form, but given his recent performances and the change in the offensive scheme since Morris’ best year as a Terrier, whether that may happen is anything but a sure thing.

The fact that the Terriers weren’t able to notch their fourth-consecutive non-conference victory for the first time since the 2004-05 season could speak to a deeper issue — because the team relies so heavily on shooting, if they are off on any given night (or even off for a crucial portion of the game), they may not be able to engineer long strings of consecutive victories (BU shot 38.6 percent on Saturday after a 54.7-percent shooting performance Tuesday). It’s early, but so far, inconsistency in shooting has been one of the major Achilles’ heels of this Terrier team.

Edit: 12.1.08
For those who weren't able to see or listen to the game (like us), there was an odd play toward the end of regulation with MSM up by five points that changed the complexion of the game's finish.

With eight seconds left on the shot clock, Jake O'Brien blocked an attempt by Kelly Beidler, the clock continued to run to "1" and then reset to 35 without any buzzer going off. In the play-by-play log, it shows that 44 seconds elapsed between BU's score to pull within five points with 1:27 remaining and MSM's bucket with 0:43 left. Who knows how much it could have changed to outcome of the game, but it's certainly disheartening to see such shaky officiating.

Terriers can't complete comeback, fall to the Mount
Goode, foul shooting lift Mount past Terriers
Foul shooting practice
Mounties sharp at the stripe against BU

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Around the League: 11.29.08

Saturday's games:

Vermont 64, Loyola (Md.) 62
Marqus Blakely’s thunderous dunk provided Vermont’s final field goal of the game (to make it 63-58) in a contest that the Catamounts(3-2) led by as many as 13 and only turned close when the Greyhounds (2-5) took a 46-45 lead midway through the second half. Mike Trimboli and Colin McIntosh connected on consecutive treys that pushed UVM’s lead to 59-54. Blakely, Trimboli and McIntosh all finished with 12 points, while Loyola’s Marquis Sullivan was the games’ leading scorer with 19. Sullivan had a chance to tie the game with two seconds left, but missed an off-balance 10-footer.

Binghamton 73, Utah Valley 66
D.J. Rivera continues to look very impressive for Binghamton as he scored 20 points against the Wolverines (5-1), as the Bearcats had five players in double figures. The game was Malik Alvin’s first of the season after being suspended from the team for being charged with the alleged assault of an elderly woman, as well as an alleged robbery. The Philadelphia native scored 14 points to even Binghamton’s record at 2-2. Ryan Toolson led Utah State with a game-high 21 points.

Stony Brook 62, Columbia 60
Stony Brook snapped its three-game losing streak thanks to a put-back by Chris Martin with 38.1 seconds left to put the Seawolves (2-3) ahead, 62-60. Columbia (2-4), trailed by 15 in the second half, but tied the score at 60 on a jumper by Niko Scott with 1:14 remaining. Both Scott and Asenso Ampim missed shots in the final 15 seconds for the Lions. The leading scorers on both teams notched 15 points: Bryan Dougher for Stony Brook and Patrick Foley for Columbia.

Niagara 103, Hartford 63
Believe it or not, this game was actually close with six minutes left in the first half. Then Niagara went on an 18-0 run to close the frame and win the Philly Hoop Group Classic at the Palestra. Rob Garrison tallied a career-high 19 points for the Purple Eagles (5-1) while teammate Bilal Benn scored 18 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds. Niagara’s Tyrone Lewis was named the MVP of the bracket and scored 14 points against the Hawks (2-5), who allowed 17 3-pointers to the Purple Eagles. Sophomore Morgan Sabia led Hartford with 14.

Maryland-Baltimore County 61, Toledo 56
The Retrievers’ defense was the overpowering force in this one as UMBC held Toledo without a field goal for roughly nine minutes down the stretch. Darryl Proctor and Jay Greene both netted14 points as UMBC (4-2) upped its home winning streak to nine games. The Retrievers not only locked down on defense, but also the charity stripe, as they connected on 18-of-20 freebies in the game, including six to end the contest. Richard Flemming threw down an alley-oop from Greene with 3:46 remaining to put UMBC up 51-50. The Rockets’ (1-5) Tyrone Kent was the game’s leading scorer with 19 points.

Tulane 66, Maine, 56
After jumping out to a 3-0 start, the Blackbears have lost four games in a row, their most recent to Tulane in the University of South Alabama Basketball Classic. Maine (3-4) led by 10 points at halftime, but Tulane’s (4-2) Kevin Sims scored a game-high 20 points and spearheaded the Green Wave’s comeback, making 4-of-5 of his attempted 3-pointers. Mark Socoby once again led the Blackbears in points (18) while teammates Gerald McLemore (14) and Troy Barnies (12) also reached double digits.

Albany 73, Penn 63
For all the negatives that surrounded the start of Albany’s season and lowered expectations, the Danes (4-2) are reeling. Anthony Raffa scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half while star-in-the-making Tim Ambrose added 19. Albany was trailing by two with 16 minutes remaining, but used a large run to up the lead to 45-36 and never trailed by less than seven after that. The Quakers (1-5) were led by Tyler Bernardini, who had 19. The Danes connected on 62.5 percent from the field in the second half to seal the deal.

Marist 63, New Hampshire 61
Despite a 22-point effort from Alvin Abreu and a 17-3 run to close the contest, the Wildcats (1-3) couldn’t complete a comeback against Marist, which used three free-throws off the hands of Ryan Schneider in the final 12 seconds to secure the win. David Devezin led the Red Foxes (2-3) with 19 in a game that featured 45 personal fouls and only 43 field goals. UNH shot just 15.4 percent from beyond the arc, something they won’t be able to do often and still expect to win.

Sunday's games:
No games scheduled.

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. Mount St. Mary's

Boston University comes into Saurday's game fresh off Tuesday's 83-75 victory against the rival Northeastern Huskies. Mount St. Mary's, while perhaps not quite as strong an opponent as Northeastern, are more than worthy and will provide another solid test for the Terriers.

The Mountaineers comes into the game sporting a 1-2 record with a win at Loyola (MD) and losses at Virginia Tech (by five) and George Mason (by 12). Considering Vermont's close losses to Maryland and George Mason, with the George Mason loss coming at home, Mount St. Mary's resumé is solid if not spectacular.

Last year's Northeast Conference champions return mostly intact. Chris Vann and his 14.4 points per game are gone, but diminutive guard Jeremy Goode and the rest of the Mountaineers' major contributors all return. Like the Terriers, Mount St. Mary's has historically been a defensively focused team, and though their offense is slightly ahead of their defense at this point of the season, don't expect that to necessarily be the case tonight.

BU's overall play has paralleled its shooting performances, perhaps peaking last Tuesday when the Terriers made 15 threes. Very few teams outside the major conferences can keep up with BU when its shooters get hot. What the Terriers have yet to show is an ability to outscore a quality opponent on a day where the shots aren't all falling.

With momentum from three consecutive wins, this is a golden opportunity for the Terriers to show another dimension to the rest of the conference. Against a team which doesn't make many mistakes -- the Mountaineers take care of the ball, rebound well, and don't take many unnecessary risks -- BU will need a quality performance to take home a win.

Projected Starting Lineups

Friday, November 28, 2008

Around the League: 11.28.08

Friday's games:

Hartford 50, New Jersey Institute of Technology 38
Joe Zeglinski returned to the city in which he played high school hoops (Archbishop Ryan in Philadelphia) to help his Hawks defeat NJIT in the first round of the Philly Classic at The Palestra. The junior guard had 17 points and senior Jaret von Rosenberg added 12 for Hartford, which never trailed. Jheryl Wilson netted a team-high 16 points for the Highlanders, while Gary Garris grabbed 12 boards. NJIT scored just 19 points in each half and has now lost an astounding 37 games in a row, with their last win coming against Longwood on Feb. 19, 2007.

South Alabama 71, Maine 59

The Blackbears found themselves in a 40-20 hole at the break thanks to the hot shooting of LaShun Wilson, who scored 13 of his career-high 15 points in the first half for South Alabama. He also hauled in seven rebounds as USA will face UC Davis in Saturday's championship game. For Maine, Mark Socoby poured in a game-high 28 points, but in addition Socoby's performance and Gerald McLemore's 10 points, the Blackbears' offense wasn't very efficient (17-of-50). Sean McNally was the only player in the game to record double digits in rebounds, with 10.

Saturday's games:
Loyola (Md.) vs. Vermont, 1:00 p.m.
Utah Valley vs. Binghamton, 2:00 p.m.
Stony Brook vs. Columbia, 2:00 p.m.
Hartford vs. Niagara, 2:00 p.m.
Toledo vs. Maryland-Baltimore County, 2:05 p.m.
Tulane vs. Maine, 6:00 p.m.
Penn vs. Albany, 7:00 p.m.
New Hampshire vs. Marist, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Around the League: 11.27.08

Thursday's games:
None. Hope you saved room for pie.

Friday's games:
New Jersey Institute of Technology vs. Hartford, 12:00 p.m.
Maine vs. South Alabama, 7:00 p.m.

A Century of Tradition: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving!

For this special holiday (and inaugural) edition of A Century of Tradition, we're going to serve a second (or maybe third) helping of stuffing and look at BU's all-time leader in blocks: Tunji Awojobi.

Awojobi, who graduated BU in 1997, is one of the most prolific players in Terriers history and holds the record for the most career points (2,308) scored by a Terrier as well as most career rebounds (1,237). There's sure to be more on Awojobi and all he brought to the program in the future, the type of player he was and what he meant to BU coach Dennis Wolff, who said this at the end of the Nigeria native's career:

"His skill level was the best of any player I have had in my eight years at BU," Wolff said. "Coaching Tunji was a privilege I will always be grateful for."

But for now, it's all about rejections. In terms of swatting opponents' shots, Awojobi is BU's undisputed authority. He holds BU's first four records for shots block in a season:

1994-95: 87
1993-94: 86
1996-97: 71
1995-96: 58

The next closest margin in blocked shots was totaled by Rashad Bell (49) in 2004-05 -- roughly 10 blocks less than Awojobi had in his worst season.

Naturally, he's also BU's all-time leader in career blocked shots with 302. Bell is second on the list with 114. Roughly 200 blocks less than the 2002 BU Hall of Fame inductee had in his career.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Around the League: 11.26.08

Wednesday's games

George Washington 70, Maryland-Baltimore County 64
Four Retrievers scored in double figures, but the Colonials (3-1) outrebounded their opponent by ten as George Washington defeated an America East opponent for the third time this season. Rob Diggs was a force on the interior, adding three blocks to his game-high 14 rebounds. The Retrievers (3-2) were in the game throughout due to solid shooting and excellent care of the basketball -- UMBC had only nine turnovers -- but the Colonials' edge on the boards proved decisive when Damian Hollis tipped in a missed free throw to give GW a two-possession lead with 19 seconds to play. The Retrievers return home to host Toledo on Saturday.

Thursday's games
No games. Just turkey.

The Day After: BU 83, Northeastern 75

The differences between Tuesday’s victory against Northeastern and BU’s blowout loss at the hands of the Huskies two years ago are astounding. Then, the Terriers shot 36 percent from the field, looked as though they had no clue how to defend then-freshman sensation Matt Janning — as well as NU’s interior threats — as four players logged double digits.

As much as this team has frustrated observers and came ever-so-close to winning some important games (both in and out of conference) over the past two seasons, Tuesday night was not only one of BU’s most complete offensive performance in recent memory (and that includes their 97-66 demolition of Hartford last February) but it was one of its biggest victories. Forget the fact that the Huskies are a former conference foe and cross-town rival, they’re simply a good team this year. Prior to the game, Northeastern was ranked No. 19 in the Mid-Major Top-25 and had toppled Holy Cross (a team that holds a 50-12 lifetime edge over the Terriers), 61-49 as well as Providence. And obviously if you reach your hand into a hat of Big East schools and pull one out, chances are it’s going to be a tough draw.

BU’s complete effort couldn’t have come at a better time — on the heels of Wolff’s comments regarding the team’s work ethic and winning mentality. Given the way various players struggled on various night to this point in the season (Corey Lowe in the opener, Tyler Morris in the second game, Jake O’Brien in the third), seeing each component of the offense execute his role so efficiently provided an idea of how the rest of the season could shape up if BU continues to be so efficient. Granted, the Terriers aren’t going to shoot above 50 percent from the field every night (and certainly not 50 percent from beyond the arc), but Tuesday night answered the open-ended question of how the offense would function at its best. Prior to this, BU would usually fuel off one player getting hot and feed them the ball until they cooled off and find someone else.

Last season, during the stretch when BU won nine of its final 12 games, the Terriers were playing a similar style of basketball, but were still making too many bad decisions. Aside from a 3-pointer Lowe fired up from roughly 28 feet away and a few ill-advised jumpers, BU didn’t take many bad shots. It’s a sign of maturity that people have been waiting to see from this group.

Another marked difference between Tuesday’s win and BU’s previous three games was their willingness to put the ball on the floor. Lowe, Morris, and John Holland all had impressive drives that took advantage of Northeastern’s tight defense on the perimeter. While it’s certainly not the premier aspect of their game, the Terriers have a good number of players who can take it to the rim, and that, too, was a welcome sight. That’s a large part of the reason BU had 20 points in the paint even though the Terriers’ big men (meaning Brittain and Pelage — since Holland is more of a wingman and O’Brien plays inside-out) combined for three points.

Although the Terriers weren’t in dire need of low-post scoring given the way Lowe and O’Brien were shooting the ball, the play of their bigs could be a concern in games where BU doesn’t shoot as well. Still, it’s safe to assume Brittain is still recovering from his concussion and that (coupled with the above-average performances by every starter) is the main reason he played just 10 minutes. In those 10, he managed three rebounds and appeared slightly more aggressive than he did against St. Peter’s, but Wolff will need to see more if Brittain hopes to get anywhere close to the amount of playing time he was last season.

Speaking of aggressiveness, Matt Wolff again proved why he deserves to be a starter. His intensity set the tone for the Terriers from the opening tip and his contributions on offense fit his role description perfectly. He battled bigger players in the paint and ended up with a season-high seven points, picking optimum situations to shoot the ball. Both Wolff and Holland led BU in rebounds, with six, and it was encouraging to see Holland pull down something on the defensive glass after coming up empty against St. Peter’s.

Notes: Tuesday marked the first time since leaving America East that Northeastern lost to an AE foe. They’re now 6-1 since departing the conference. … BU now leads the all-time series against the Huskies, 70-66. … Oddly enough, NU’s point guard Chaisson Allen led the Huskies in rebounds, with seven.

BU is right on target against Northeastern
Lowe, O'Brien combine for 48 as Terriers top Northeastern

Post-game Audio

Here are some post-game sound clips from BU's 83-75 win over Northeastern.

BU coach Dennis Wolff discusses the significance of the win

Dennis Wolff was happy with BU's tenacious effort on the boards

Corey Lowe talks about BU's rivalry against Northeastern

Jake O'Brien knew he needed to gain confidence to start the second half

NU coach Bill Coen has a different take on BU's rebounding edge

Bill Coen realizes how talented BU's perimeter can be when it's hot

Matt Janning credits Lowe and O'Brien for making big shots

Lowe, O'Brien combine for 48 as Terriers top Northeastern

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Around the League: 11.25.08

Tuesday's games:

Albany 66, Columbia 49
Jerel Hastings lead all scorers with 15 points off the bench on 6-of-8 shooting as the Great Danes improved to 3-2. Columbia (2-3) couldn't get it going on its home floor, as the Lions were held below 30% from the field. Tim Ambrose had another solid game for the Danes, contributing 13 points. Albany's solid work on the boards produced a +14 rebounding advantage, which played a large part in the Danes' third consecutive win. Albany hosts Pennsylvania on Saturday.

American 56, Stony Brook 53
The Seawolves (1-3) had a chance to force overtime after a late comeback, but Chris Martin's attempt from beyond the arc missed as the America East member lost its third consecutive game. Freshman Tommy Brenton had another solid performance for Stony Brook, contributing 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Eagles' leading scorer heading into the game, Garrison Carr, was held to just 10 points, but the Seawolves' inability to force more than 10 turnovers gave American (4-1) enough useful possessions to hold on at home. The Seawolves have a few days to enjoy Thanksgiving before heading into the city for a Saturday game versus Columbia.

Central Connecticut State 76, Binghamton 51
Whatever frustration the Blue Devils had pent up from their recent loss to Albany was taken out on fellow America East member Binghamton, as Central Connecticut State (1-3) took the lead just before halftime before heating up in the second half and turning this one into a laugher. The Bearcats were a miserable 0-of-19 from the floor, and while the abysmal effort from behind the arc skews the rebounding margin somewhat -- the Blue Devils were plus-4 on the boards -- Binghamton didn't excel in any aspect. The Bearcats are 1-2 and return to Vestal for a Saturday clash against Utah Valley.

Rhode Island 94, Hartford 72

Joe Zeglinski (21 points) became the fastest Hawk to reach 1000 points in the Division-I era since Vin Baker, but it wasn't nearly enough against Rhode Island. The Rams (4-1) had five players score in double figures and shot an excellent 52 percent both from behind the arc and overall as Rhode Island cruised to victory at the Ryan Center. Hartford (1-4) has given up more than 80 points against each of its last four opponents, something it hopes to avoid in its first game of the Philly Classic against the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Friday.

Vermont 78, Delaware 63
America East's other game against a quality CAA opponent saw Colin McIntosh go off from the field. McIntosh was 11-of-15 for a career-high 25 points and led all scorers as the Catamounts (2-2) led by as many as 25. Blue Hen guards Jawan Carter and Alphonso Dawson scored 15 each but took a combined 36 shots to do so. Well-rounded games from Marqus Blakely (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Mike Trimboli (19 points, seven rebounds, five assists) doomed Delaware (2-3) to failure. Vermont looks to climb above .500 next Tuesday against Dartmouth.

Quinnipiac 73, Maine 66
Justin Rutty scored a career-high 30 points on just 16 shots as Quinnipiac held off Maine to improve to 3-2 on the season. Maine (3-2) shot just 26 percent from the field in the first half but managed to stay close until a 15-3 run fueled by Rutty and James Feldeine (14 points) gave the Bobcats their largest lead of the game. Sean McNally had 14 rebounds for the Black Bears as Maine outrebounded its opposition by eight, but Quinnipiac's superior shooting performance was enough for the win at home. Maine heads to Mobile to begin the USA Basketball Classic against South Alabama on Friday.

Wednesday's games:
Maryland-Baltimore County vs. George Washington, 7:30 p.m.

Live Blog: Boston University vs. Northeastern University

Boston University (2-1) and Northeastern University (3-1) tip off at 8:00 p.m. at Matthews Arena on NESN. The Terriers have lost their last four meetings against the Huskies by an average of 10.8 points. BU leads the all-time series in the Battle of Boston, 69-66. In the first game of the doubleheader, BU's women's team defeated Northeastern, 71-68.

Here are the starting lineups for this evening's game:

Boston University Terriers:
02 F Matt Wolff
13 G Corey Lowe
21 F Jake O'Brien
23 F John Holland
24 G Tyler Morris

Northeastern University Huskies:
03 G Chaisson Allen
23 G Matt Janning
24 F Eugene Spates
32 F Manny Adako
54 C Nkem Ojougboh

First Half
Both teams have started in a man-to-man defense, but Northeastern will probably play a zone against BU. Expect BU to keep their scheme that way for much of the game, with the possibility of switching to the Box and-1 after working on it in practice this week.

15:10 remaining: Tie, 7-7. Corey Lowe has five of BU's seven points and assisted the other. Lowe started the scoring with a 12-footer from the left side, and scored his other bucket on a difficult step-back 3-pointer with Chaisson Allen in his face. His assist was a nice low-post feed to Matt Wolff who up-faked and put it in. Nkem Ojougboh has three of Northeastern's seven and both teams are tied with four boards apiece.

Wolff has been particularly aggressive on the boards thus far, and the Terriers have come out with a good amount of energy.

13:40 remaining: BU leads 18-12. BU's only starter on the court is Lowe as Jeff Pelage, Marques Johnson, Scott Brittain and Carlos Strong have all entered the game.

Lowe converted an athletic four-point play directly in front of Northeastern's bench as he was fouled by Allen. He hasn't cooled down since as he's 5-of-6, drained another 3-pointer from the opposite corner and finished a drive with the left hand to total 13 points in just over eight minutes. Pelage had a beautiful move left-handed and high off-glass to put BU up 13-10 after Chris Alvarez converted a difficult put-back.

O'Brien picked up his second foul and is sitting with 11:14 remaining. Spates is also sitting with two fouls.

BU's effort on the defensive boards is a welcome sight. The Terriers have five defensive boards thus far, but are clearly showing a much more concentrated effort than they did against St. Peter's.

7:32 remaining: Game tied at 22. Lowe has upped his total 18 and there's still over 7:00 remaining in the half. A 3-pointer Matt Smith over an outstretched Lowe knotted the game at 22 just before this media timeout. Morris has struggled from the field, shooting 0-of-4, but has been solid defensively along with the rest of the Terriers. BU's man-to-man defense has had some holes, but overall, it seems to be stifling the Huskies as they're having a hard time creating shots.

BU has seven fouls and NU has five.

3:07 remaining: Northeastern leads 31-30. Matt Janning hit his first 3-pointer of the game following a nice shuffle move to shake Strong off of him to give NU the lead back in a close contest thus far. On BU's side, we know what you're thinking. How much has Lowe scored since the last update? And the answer is four, upping his total to 23. Strong added a 3-pointer to become BU's fourth scorer of the game. Despite Lowe's heroics, NU used an 8-0 run to draw the score close.

Halftime: 40-39 Northeastern. This one is a dandy. Janning, who's now recorded double digits in 24 consecutive contests, hit an extremely difficult baseline jumper as time expired to put the Huskies up one at the half. Prior to that, Brittain missed the second shot of a 1-and-1, but Holland skied above the pack for an offensive rebound. After Lowe started to drive and drew two defenders, he kicked to Holland in the corner, who promptly drained the trey. Holland hit another 3 before that to pull BU within two points after Janning started heating up and scored five-straight points (on a 22-footer and a fastbreak layup) to put the Huskies up 37-32.

Aside from Lowe, who's been out-of-this-world good (9-of-13 and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc), and Janning's (6-of-8, 2-of-4) individual performances, the story of the game has been rebounding and turnovers. Though the turnover numbers are relatively low for both clubs, BU has coughed the ball up eight times (some at very inopportune moments) while Northeastern has done so only four times and the Terriers have just one steal.

On the glass, the teams are even at 14 (there haven't been too many missed shots as BU is hitting at 51.9 percent and NU and 56.0 percent), but BU's effort on the boards is clearly showing. The Terriers' man-to-man defense let up a bit toward the end of the half, as Janning got hot, but 40 points isn't terrible against a team as talented as the Huskies.

O'Brien played seven minutes after picking up his second foul in the first half, so it will be interesting to see what impact he has when he returns along with NU's Spates (who also sat with two fouls).

Unless Lowe keeps up his ridiculous pace, the Terriers may need to find some other scoring outlets. Holland came on toward the end of the first session, but Morris is 0-for-4 and BU's forwards haven't done much in the way of scoring. What was a good sign for BU, however, was that when Northeastern began to lock him down and double him (even on the perimeter), he found a way to facilitate the offense like he did against St. Peter's.

Second Half
15:30 remaining: BU leads 49-45. The game continues to be played at an accelerated pace. The Terriers opened the half on an 8-3 run, highlighted by a difficult straight-away 3-pointer by Holland and another 3 by O'Brien. NU has answered, however, as Spates hit a 3 for his first points of the game and Adako converted a powerful two-handed dunk on a nice assist from Allen.

13:37 remaining: BU leads 57-49. In the first half, it was Lowe providing the offense for BU, now it's O'Brien and Holland. O'Brien's most recent 3-pointer gave BU its largest lead of the evening, at eight. He's got eight this half and Holland has 15 in the game, the most impressive of which was a strong take to the hole and a tough lay in off-glass.

11:03 remaining: BU leads 62-53. Matt Wolff just hit the biggest bucket of his season thus far. With the shot clock ticking down and Lowe with the ball, he started to drive, but was triple-teamed in the process of taking his shot. Lowe decided not to release and before his feet touched the ground, kicked to a wide-open Wolff in front of the BU bench, who knocked it down to put BU back up by nine after a 4-0 Northeastern mini-run.

The Terriers are 8-of-12 to start the second half while the Huskies are 5-of-12.

Northeastern has five turnovers this half after giving the ball away just four times in the first.

9:29 remaining: The Terriers lead 62-53. NU's Matt Smith missed a wide-open breakaway layup with Holland and Lowe trailing on defense, but not giving too much pressure. Northeastern is taking a fair amount of quick shots in their possessions, but haven't been too successful in converting. Lowe's only two points of this half have come from the free-throw line.

7:54 remaining: BU leads 62-57. Play since the last update has been sloppy. The Terriers have turned the ball over three times while Northeastern has turned it over twice. That sloppiness has led to a 4-0 personal run by Janning to pull Northeastern within five. Janning has scored NU's last six points and has 20 in the game.

6:27 remaining: The Terriers lead 64-57. O'Brien found Wolff on a good look down low. Wolff up-faked, got his man in the air and laid it in for his seventh point of the game (a season-high).

4:13 remaining: BU leads 72-61. O'Brien hit yet another trey (his fourth of the game) to put BU up 72-58 before NU's Allen answered with a 3-pointer of his own. Prior to that, Morris scored his first points of the game on a 3-pointer assisted by Strong to put BU up by 10. He then followed with an excellent take to the rim and banked it in high off-glass with the shot clock at three. It's encouraging to see Morris getting back into his game. If he's able to do that on a consistent basis, BU will be very hard to beat.

2:04 remaining: The Terriers lead 79-68. Each team is scoring at will, but BU's got the edge. O'Brien hit another 3, this time wide open in front of BU's bench as well as a pretty reverse layup on a feed from Wolff. While BU's defense isn't anywhere close to where coach Wolff would like it to be, seeing the Terriers' offense score like this and from so many different sources is quite impressive.

0:35.7 remaining: The Terriers lead 81-73. O'Brien hit both shots of a 1-and-1 to put BU up by eight points with 35.7 left to extend it to a three-possession game. O'Brien fouled out scrambling for a rebound on the next possession.

Holland made both free throws with 20 second remaining to put BU up 83-75 and that's the way the score stayed.

Final: Boston University 83, Northeastern University 75

Leading scorers:
BU -- Corey Lowe, 27
NU -- Matt Janning, 22

Leading rebounders:
BU -- Two tied with 6
NU -- Chaisson Allen, 7

Leading assists:
BU -- Corey Lowe, 6
NU -- Matt Janning, 7

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. Northeastern University

Boston University's season opener against George Washington was a benchmark. It was a chance for a group that had lost to the Colonials in three consecutive seasons to prove that this year was different. To make, as Corey Lowe said prior to the tip-off of that game, a statement.

So if, as Lowe said, every game is a statement game, the issue becomes which games make louder statements than others? Getting a win against Northeastern University tonight at Matthews Arena would yell legitimacy for quite a distance.

Much like GW, this collection of Terriers hasn't beaten the Huskies in two seasons (after taking one year off from the rivalry once NU left America East for the CAA). Last year's game at The Roof ended with a close result (65-58), but BU was never in control and appeared off-balance and unable to score easily for the majority of the contest. This time around, not only does BU have the best roster it's had since the Huskies bolted from AE, but so does Northeastern.

Centered around junior captain Matt Janning, the Northeastern also boasts a formidable front court, which has been the bane of BU's existence in the teams' two previous meetings. Make no mistake, if BU doesn't outwork (not necessarily outrebound) the Huskies on the offensive and defensive glass tonight, they won't notch their third consecutive non-conference victory -- which would be the first such streak of its kind since 2004-05 when BU won 20 games and four in a row out of conference.

An X-factor regarding BU's battle for the boards (a microcosm of the Battle for Boston) is 6-foot-9 forward Scott Brittain. Still slightly hampered by a concussion he suffered prior to the start of the season, Brittain logged 11 minutes in Saturday's game against St. Peter's and didn't do much. The Terriers will need him to supply a semblance of post presence if BU hopes to keep the rebounding margin close. Though Matt Wolff has been about as tenacious on the boards as any one player can be, he can't win the rebounding margin against NU by himself.

Before practice on Monday, BU coach Dennis Wolff talked about how he's expecting more out of Brittain this season.

"I don't care about mistakes, but if I see plays that I perceive not to be aggressive enough in the lane, that's going to influence my thinking," Wolff said.

Wolff cited a specific play against St. Peter's where Brittain opened himself up on a layup attempt that got blocked instead of, perhaps, taking the ball hard to the rim for a dunk attempt. Obviously all parties involved (save the opponent) would be satisfied seeing that kind of effort from Brittain, but neither that specific play (nor his enitre first game back) should not be used as a barometer for what Brittain's could potenitally do over the course of the season. Though, seeing a bit more tenacity in his game against a forceful and talented Northeastern squad would certainly be a good start.

Projected Starting Lineups

BU set to renew rivalry with NU

Monday, November 24, 2008

Around the League: 11.24.08

Monday's games:

Tuesday's games:
Albany vs. Columbia, 7:00 p.m.
American vs. Stony Brook, 7:00 p.m.
Binghamton vs. Central Connecticut State, 7:00 p.m.
Boston University vs. Northeastern, 8:00 p.m.
Hartford vs. Rhode Island, 7:00 p.m.
Vermont vs. Delaware, 7:00 p.m.
Quinnipiac vs. Maine, 7:30 p.m.

The State of America East

Early returns from America East teams are mixed. Some teams have burst out of the gate with victories against weak competition. Others fought tooth-and-nail for 40 minutes -- and sometimes more -- versus opponents of approximately equal strength. Still others have threatened to steal wins from heavily favored foes, and an unfortunate few have already started to broadcast warning signs.

Which early results are true indicators of future performances, and which are red herrings? We don't know yet, but using what we've seen to date, here are our America East Power Rankings:

1. Vermont Catamounts
(1-2, 0-0 AE, RPI 229, SOS 170)
Last week: W 89-58 vs. Yale, L at Maryland 89-74 (OT)
Next week: 11/25 at Delaware

It's not every day a team with a losing record merits a spot at the top of the power rankings, but the Catamounts are not your ordinary sub-.500 team. Vermont's two losses were a one-point loss to George Mason -- perhaps not a Final Four-caliber Patriots team, but a quality team nonetheless -- and an overtime loss at Maryland where the Terrapins were lucky to escape. Friday's destruction of Yale was impressive. The Cats could easily be 3-0, and with their most visible weakness so far -- Vermont has turned the ball over 20 times per game -- likely to improve given the veteran presence in the backcourt, it'd be a major surprise to see the Catamounts languish below .500 for much longer.

2. Boston University Terriers
(2-1, 0-0 AE, RPI 281, SOS 310)
Last week: W 71-68 (OT) at Bucknell, W 67-62 vs. Saint Peter's
This week: 11/25 at Northeastern, 11/29 at Mount Saint Mary's

The Terriers' three games may not have produced any upsets, but all three have been close. Scott Brittain's return to the lineup on Saturday afforded BU a full complement of players, but it may take some time before the Terrier forward is fully effective on both ends of the floor. BU's frontcourt depth appears to be less of a concern than in previous years. Free-throw shooting needs to improve, particularly late in games. This Tuesday's contest against CAA foe and former America East rival Northeastern should be a good measuring stick.

3. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
(3-1, 0-0 AE, RPI 101, SOS 182)
Last week: L 67-60 at Morgan State, W 76-71 vs. Quinnipiac (neutral court), W 66-52 at Columbia
Next week: 11/26 at George Washington, 11/29 vs. Toledo

UMBC's 3-1 record thus far is bolstered somewhat by a lopsided win against local D-III Stevenson, but the Retrievers have acquitted themselves reasonably well thus far. Darryl Proctor and Jay Greene have had to carry most of the load while the rest of Randy Monroe's tight rotation adjusts to increased expectations. Fairfield transfer Rich Flemming has been effective thus far; his offensive production will come in handy when Proctor has an off night. The schedule gets harder this week. The Colonials' height and athleticism will provide the Retrievers with a stiffer test come Wednesday, and a road win against a quality opponent would be another strong indicator that the Retrievers aren't one-year wonders.

4. Hartford Hawks
(1-3, 0-0 AE, RPI 235, SOS 160)
Last week: L 99-56 at Connecticut, L 89-64 at Penn State, W 91-82 vs. Saint Francis (NY)
This week: 11/25 at Rhode Island, 11/28 at New Jersey Institute of Technology

Getting blown out by Connecticut isn't necessarily embarrassing. This year's Huskies are capable of blowing out anyone and everyone. Still, a blowout doesn't work in Hartford's favor, and the subsequent demolition at Penn State confirms the Hawks' inability to hang with the big dogs. Beating Saint Francis gives Dan Leibovitz's team the traction it hoped to gain in the season opener, but the Hawks have neither a strong performance against a quality opponent nor a series of wins, which keeps them behind the top three teams at this juncture.

5. Albany Great Danes
(2-2, 0-0 AE, RPI 71, SOS 85)
Last week: L 75-64 at DePaul, W 76-67 at Bryant, W 68-67 vs. Central Connecticut State
This week: 11/25 at Columbia, 11/29 vs. Pennsylvania

Tim Ambrose showed promise his freshman year, but few could have expected the performances the sophomore guard has turned in so far. Ambrose's 48 points in 53 minutes against Bryant and Central Connecticut State have the Danes at .500 and confident. Rebounding has been a strength thus far -- the Great Danes outrebounded both of their Big East opponents to open the season -- and while Albany hasn't been statistically dominant in any area, no obvious weakness has been exposed at this point. Considering his team's youth, Will Brown has to be pleased.

6. Maine Black Bears
(3-1, 0-0 AE, RPI 82, SOS 154)
Last week: W 58-55 at Princeton, L 83-62 at Providence
This week: 11/25 vs. Quinnipiac, 11/29 at South Alabama

Ted Woodward's resume as head coach of the Black Bears offers little to inspire confidence, but even the most stubborn Maine fans have to admit early returns this season are overwhelmingly positive. The opponents aren't impressive -- this year's Princeton isn't likely to live up to the name -- but a 3-0 start suggests Maine might be more capable than usual. Ball control is an issue, as Maine has turned the ball over on fully one-quarter of its possessions. The Black Bears will have trouble in the post all year, and a net rebounding percentage below 45% is a major concern, but for now Maine's backcourt depth and strong shooting are enough for sixth.

7. New Hampshire Wildcats
(1-2, 0-0 AE, RPI 310, SOS 250)
Last week: L 80-69 vs. Harvard, L 70-50 at Penn State
This week: 11/29 at Marist

The Wildcats' sole win this year was by a 51-point margin. Of course, it was against D-III Suffolk, but the margin was appropriate for a D-I school (more on this later). Harvard shot the lights out -- and the Crimson figure to be significantly improved from last year -- but New Hampshire acquitted itself reasonably well. Penn State didn't shoot as well, and the Wildcats hung around for a while before the Nittany Lions pulled away, but the overall defensive picture remains far from rosy. Offensively UNH has displayed depth, balance, efficiency and excellent ball control; if the Wildcats can improve their field-goal percentage defense, better results will follow. Until they win a game, though, it'll be hard to move higher than seventh.

8. Binghamton Bearcats
(1-1, 0-0 AE, RPI 270, SOS 165)
Last week: W 80-62 at Mansfield (D-II), L 71-57 at George Washington
This week: 11/25 at Central Connecticut State, 11/29 vs. Utah Valley

Two games into the season, the Bearcats have obvious talent at positions where the team was previously lacking. But talent isn't the question at Binghamton. Chemistry is, and the Bearcats displayed none of it in their loss to George Washington. A 14-point loss on the road to George Washington isn't embarrassing, but Binghamton never looked capable of leveraging its strengths to try and win. A plus-14 rebounding advantage was negated by a subpar performance at the charity stripe, poor shooting and a -9 turnover differential. Transfer guard Tiki Mayben's seven turnovers against the Colonials says it all. Add in the surprisingly competitive game against D-II Mansfield, and the Bearcats have failed to impress on the court thus far.

9. Stony Brook Seawolves
(1-2, 0-0 AE, RPI 315, SOS 305)
Last week: L 80-71 at Lafayette, L 65-62 vs. Wagner
This week: 11/25 vs. American, 11/29 at Columbia

A home win against Maryland-Eastern Shore is the one bright spot on the Seawolves' resume thus far. The Seawolves aren't the worst team in Division-I -- that would be the New Jersey Institute of Technology -- but they aren't far removed from worst-in-D-I territory. Head coach Steve Pikiell spreads the playing time out throughout his roster, so Stony Brook's many young players will get the opportunity to prove themselves. Despite that, the Seawolves' ceiling isn't much higher than their current low level of performance, and even if one or two of the freshmen prove to be real talents, whether Pikiell will opt to tighten the rotation and give his best players the bulk of the minutes is anyone's guess. The Seawolves are the worst team in America East, and they'll remain in the power rankings cellar until there's a convincing reason for them to move up.

Conference performance
OOC record (D-I opponents only): 12-15
Conference RPI: 20 out of 31
Conference SOS: 26 out of 31

Both the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) wildly vary in the early weeks of the season, so for now neither number means particularly much. Last year, in what was a generally down year for the conference despite the highly contested race among the second-through-sixth place teams, America East ranked 26th in both categories. Just like the RPI and SOS ranks for individual teams (which are out of 343), a lower numerical rank is better.

Right now the important number for America East is the OOC record. 12-15 is about average at this stage. With a few more lucky bounces the conference could be above .500 right now, but luck runs both ways.

One of the better ways to encapsulate teams' overall offensive and defensive strength is by removing tempo from consideration. The table below shows America East teams' offensive and defensive efficiency against Division-I opponents, expressed in terms of points scored per 100 possessions. While the numbers are still heavily influenced by opponents' strength and style of play this early in the season, some figures do stand out.

Vermont is playing at a faster pace than the rest of the league so far, and is finding success on both sides of the ball while doing so. The Retrievers and Terriers may have the highest offensive and defensive efficiencies, respectively, but Vermont is demonstrating strength on both ends against tougher competition.

Hartford and New Hampshire are clearly having difficulty preventing other teams from scoring. In their defense -- no pun intended -- neither has faced a weak offensive team thus far, but at some point the stops are going to have to come. The Hawks' offense hasn't been awful on a per-possession basis by any means, but offensive potential won't help much if the opponent is scoring at will. Each team's next game should provide a somewhat more reasonable test.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Day After: BU 67, St. Peter's 62

Aside from John Holland's dominant performance in BU's win against St. Peter's on Saturday, a few other Terriers had interesting games. Here's a look at some observations involving specific players in BU's second win of the season.

Corey Lowe: Lowe was impressive on a number of levels, but perhaps most significant were his six assists. Ever since BU coach Dennis Wolff switched the offensive scheme in that ever-meaningful win against Maine in Orono last season, Lowe has developed into not only someone who can be counted on to score the bulk of the team's points but also a player who can facilitate other players' scoring. While Lowe's most flashy assist was a perfectly-placed lob to Holland for an alley-oop, perhaps his most difficult and impressive was a low-post feed to Matt Wolff, who proceeded to convert the bucket and got fouled.

While Lowe has proven he can assume the role of leading scorer (he averaged a team-high 18.1 points per game last season and accounted for 24.05 percent of BU's scoring), he had this to say following the win:

What that amounts to is a re-definition of Lowe's role in the offense. Obviously, he's still the go-to guy and widely considered the best guard in the conference, but how much will his pure scorer mindset change given his commitment to becoming a more complete player? The only way to find out is over time.

Speaking of being a complete player, Lowe's defense of SPC's top player (Wesley Jenkins) was outstanding. Rarely, if at all, did Jenkins blow by him and despite 17 points showing for Jenkins at the end of the afternoon, as Wolff said, none of Jenkins' buckets were that important to St. Peter's.

Lowe's defense has been a consistently underrated aspect of his game. More often than not, he's matched up against the opposition's best guard (who, at least in out of conference play, is usually taller) and more often than not, he shuts them down. Perhaps it's due to his "defensive baptism by fire" when he spent his first collegiate contest matched up against former George Washington star Carl Elliott.

On a more negative note, Lowe still hasn't found a consistent stroke from beyond the arc. It's doubtful this has anything to do with the 3-point line being moved back a foot -- because Lowe has remarkable range -- but if the trend continues it could be a concern. Through three games, Lowe is connecting on 25 percent of his shots from downtown (6-of-24) while his averages in his first two seasons were 32.8 and 37.1 percent. It's not yet an issue, but one does wonder if his poor shooting performance from 3-point land in last year's AE tournament (1-of-11) has had any carryover effect.

Tyler Morris: Gone are the days when Morris would constantly curl off a screen and use his naturally quick release to pristine-jump-shot his way to ROTY. After being injured for the first half of last season and never returning to form by the end of the year, Morris is still searching for his role on offense. Through the first three games, he's taken four, eight and two shots respectively, converting a single bucket in each one. Easily one of the best shooters on the team, it seems as though Morris is caught between his role as point guard and playing a more natural position (the 2). As Wolff said post-game, he would like to see Morris get out of the point guard mindset and instead be used as a vehicle for entering the ball into the offense, then just join the other players on the floor to present a deep and balanced scoring attack.

The issue that the team doesn't have a true point guard, aside from when Marques Johnson enters the game for Morris, is something Wolff said was "a little bit of a concern" on practice Thursday. Though if BU is able to produce 15 assists (like it did against St. Peter's) nightly and gets its turnover numbers down, Wolff might shouldn't mind the current setup.

Carlos Strong: For the second-straight game, Strong played 16 minutes after logging 30 in the opener. It seems as though BU's balance of weapons on the perimeter gets too crowded at times, and that at no point during this season might it be easy to clearly define the amount of PT Strong will get. As the first man off the bench, Strong's talent level is as good if not better than any other sixth man in the league, so it will be interesting to see if he settles into a more defined role as the season progresses.

Wolff said this following the game regarding the offensive scoring balance: "I never think about that. My thought process is always what we're going to do best to win a particular game."

Scott Brittain: After missing two games with a concussion (the fourth of his playing career -- he had three in high school), Brittain logged 11 minutes and didn't appear to be completely recovered from the 10 days of practice he missed. Brittain pulled down one rebound and made a baseline jumper in the second half for his only points, but we won't be able to see exactly how he'll fit into this year's frontcourt (with the addition of Jake O'Brien and Jeff Pelage) until he's fully recovered.

Odds and Ends: BU converted 44.9 percent of its shots from the floor Saturday (22-of-49) for what was easily its highest shooting percentage of the season. Perhaps it was because the Terriers were playing at The Roof (where they practice every day) for the first time all season. ... The listed attendance was 600, but it seemed like much less were there. 1:00 p.m. start times on a Saturday just aren't conducive to having a large crowd.

BU opens Case with a win
Holland rounding into form