Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Day After: BU 75, Harvard 59

Sure the Terriers had a gameplan and executed it extremely efficiently. BU coach Dennis Wolff is right when he said doubling Keith Wright in the post (and forcing him to turn the ball over seven times) held the key to victory for BU, but yesterday's victory wasn't an ordinary by-the-books -- or in this case, by-the-practice plan -- win.

It marked the occurrence of something much different -- the transformation of a group of wide-eyed, talented yet vastly inexperienced rookies to a collection of mature players, determined to accomplish what they know is possible -- a winning season (and NCAA tournament berth) for the first time in their careers. The fact that this win marked the first time since 2004-05 the Terriers have achieved four non-conference victories prior to the start of conference play is certainly a good start.

The disparities between BU's victory at Harvard two years ago and this season's romp weren't only seeded in the Terriers' hot shooting (after all, they scored 78 points in their 2006 win) but rather defensive maturity, disciplined offense and minimal turnovers.

The balance on offense was similar to how the Terriers performed at Northeastern, demonstrating the bevy of shooters BU has. It presents a tall task for any team attempting to guard BU, especially the mismatch Jake O'Brien creates on the perimeter because of his length and ability to shoot the 3. With any single player possessing the ability to get hot, there shouldn't be many nights when everyone goes cold, but if there is, the Terriers could be in trouble.

While there weren't many negatives to take out of the blowout victory, there were some. First, the interior defense. Harvard still scored 42 points in the paint, despite the neutralization of Wright. Evan Harris did some damage down low, but BU also allowed too many uncontested layups in the lane. Harvard isn't exactly a beastly interior team and they'll need to improve their guarding in the paint if they hope to eclipse their previous conference win totals over the past three years. Wright is good, but he's nowhere close to the likes of Darryl Proctor or Marqus Blakely -- talented forwards BU will have to face twice apiece this year.

Offensively, BU could stand for a post scorer as well for nights when the offense might go cold. After all, the Terriers can't be expected to shoot 45-50 percent from beyond the arc on a nightly basis.

"I look at our team and the makeup of our team being what it is," Wolff said. "We’re playing to the strengths of the kids who are getting the majority of the minutes. In the perfect world if I could build an ideal team, would I like to have a back-to-the-basket scorer who we can count on regularly getting baskets? Absolutely. I do think we have some guys that can fill that void, but they have to play better and be a little more consistent in practice."

Those players are Scott Brittain and Jeff Pelage, but since neither have been completely healthy yet this season, it'd be unfair to judge their mediocre performances thus far and/or project them out for an entire season.

Another one of BU's struggling players, Tyler Morris, had what was arguably his best game this season on Wednesday and could have been even better if the rim wasn't so unkind. He had four shots rim out that would have boosted his stat line significantly. That said, he rarely touches the rim in practice, so there's still something going on between how he executes in practices as opposed to his game performance. He also had six assists, but still struggled with turnovers (six), including two bad ones late in the second half with the game well in-hand.

"All I really want out of him is for him to relax," Wolff said of Morris. "And if he would relax a little bit more than he would just make the easier plays."

Firing on all cylinders

BU throttles Harvard
Terriers dominate the Crimson
Defensive woes, turnovers plague Crimson in home loss to Terriers

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