Wednesday, November 26, 2008

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

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