Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Day After: BU 55, Yale 43

If you were in attendance for BU's 55-43 victory on Wednesday night, you probably left with a sour taste in your mouth. Sure the Terriers won, but it wasn't in convincing fashion, it wasn't with an explosive offensive performance (as they had shown in road wins against Northeastern and Harvard and a home loss to Marshall) and it was against a team picked to finish third in the Ivy league playing without one of its best players (Travis Pinick).

Despite all those factors (and recognizing that the most important thing from any perspective -- fan, coaching staff, player -- is that the Terriers got the win) Wednesday's scrappy showing in front of 490 fans was an encouraging sign. Especially at this point in the season.

Midway through non-conference play (and just before final exams) can be a trying period. Teams are naturally getting excited to perform against conference opponents, but those games are too distant to produce an actual emotional impact and the beginning-of-the-season luster has all but worn off. It's a difficult time to piece together wins (even more so playing in a relatively empty gym) so the Terriers deserve a lot of credit for topping Yale -- a team that contested BU's perimeter shots very well (in the first half, at least) and had capable forwards who could score the ball.

The other reason BU deserves credit is because they executed an intangible that was coached in practice. It's one thing to correctly double the post or switch to a 1-3-1 zone after working on it against teammates, but it's another when the coaching staff is running drills explicitly meant to toughen a team up and the team answers the call. The Terriers' second-half defensive effort was similar to their 53-29 win over New Hampshire at The Roof two years ago. And in the face of a mediocre shooting performance against Yale-- which was just that, as the Terriers have shot worse on three occasions this season, but it just seemed so bad because of how well BU had been shooting prior to the game -- it's proven the team can take direction even when other aspects of the gameplan falter.

That said, BU coach Dennis Wolff expressed concern after watching the tape at how many open shots BU missed. If the Terriers expect to keep their name close to the top of the list of contenders for a league title, they'll need to battle through games like Wednesday's (where nothing seems to be falling) as well as put on the aerial display they have multiple times already this season.

-- Defensive intensity: Yale failed to convert a field goal for roughly 11 minutes in the second half, fueling a 16-4 run by BU that could have been much larger had the Terriers been shooting well.
-- Scott Brittain's defense: The 6-foot-9 forward has been struggling all season with his aggressiveness, but pulled down five defensive boards against a sizable frontcourt and helped shut down Yale's forwards in the second half. Granted, he still let some boards slip though his hands, but any sign of improvement at this point is a positive thing.

-- Corey Lowe's turnovers: Wolff said it was picking up two early fouls that threw the junior guard off his game. Still, it was concerning to see such ill-advised passes when Lowe's emerged into one of the best facilitators on the team over the last three seasons.
-- Free-throw shooting: BU connected on 17-of-26 from the charity stripe, and made just 1-of-4 in the final minute and 2-of-7 in the final five minutes. Lowe, who has been shaky at the line late in the game all season, was 1-of-4 in the last five minutes and 4-of-8 overall.

Ministers of defense

Defensive struggle goes to BU

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