Monday, January 26, 2009

The Day After: (BU 73, Maine 62)

Finally, the Terriers have a chance to breathe. And do more than that, actually, as their brutal stretch of four games in nine days (which turned even more demanding, physically at least, when the team played six overtimes periods in a span of three nights) is over. The silver lining? BU won all four games to vault them over the .500 mark for the first time since they were 5-4 in December and pull into a three-way tie with Binghamton and Vermont (both 5-2) in conference play.

What's more is the way the Terriers capped their four-game stretch -- with an 11-point victory in frigid Alfond Arena after trailing by 18 points in the first half (73-62). In all honesty, BU could have collapsed. They could have allowed fatigue to become an all-too-easy excuse for the early deficit (though it was actually a sloppy zone defense and lack of shooting) and still had a phenomenal week in conference play with a 3-1 record. But they didn't. Instead, this group -- which was has been mercilessly criticized throughout the course of the season and some of their careers for not being tough enough at the end of games to close out victories, even with a big lead -- summoned enough energy to overcome the deficit on the road and put themselves right back in the talk for conference title contenders. It's somewhere not many people would have placed the Terriers, especially after the news came that Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong were lost for the season, but BU has looked to have proven their doubters wrong.

While the result of the week that was is extremely impressive and encouraging (and the team is on a season-high four-game winning streak, averaging 83.3 points over those last four contests), BU's work doesn't get any easier, nor will it for the remainder of the season (with perhaps the exception of the BracketBusters game, which doesn't hold nearly the importance of BU's conference contests). The victory against Maine marked the beginning of a stretch where the Terriers will play three in a row on the road and five of seven.

While Corey Lowe (who set BU's all-time record for 3-pointers made in a career), John Holland and Jake O'Brien are the Terriers' main scoring threats since conference play started, the current run would not have been possible had it not been for the contributions from Scott Brittain and Matt Wolff. Brittain has almost worked back to his sophomore-year form and is playing with perhaps the most confidence he has in his career. Since the start of conference play (and consequently, his insertion into the starting lineup) he's averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game (and 8.0 in BU's last four). Wolff, while often criticized for not putting up flashy numbers, remains a key contributor for the Terriers -- games like his seven-assist, six-rebound performance against Maine and his defensive lockdown of Darryl Proctor late in Thursday's victory against UMBC are two prime recent examples.

In a wide-open conference, the Terriers have as much momentum as any other team heading into their bye week. Rest before Saturday's game at Hartford couldn't have come at a better time for a team fighting fatigue (and that will be fighting fatigue all season).

-- 20 Assists: BU notched a season-high in assists with a season-high (for any Terrier) nine from Lowe and seven from Wolff. BU's win at Alfond last season sparked a major winning streak and a key turnaround after an offensive switch. The team has already started playing better prior to a visit to Alfond, but perhaps this win will keep them going.
-- Man-to-man defense: Though the Terriers have been playing a matchup zone for the majority of the conference schedule, BU coach Dennis Wolff decided to switch to a man and it helped fuel the 18-point comeback victory. It's a great sign that BU can now use two defenses effectively after primarily being a man-to-man team for the whole season.

-- Slow start: For the second-straight game, BU started sluggishly. While fatigue may be an acceptable excuse, the Terriers can't get used to a winning formula of having to climb out of early holes.
-- Marques Johnson's minutes: While Johnson's performance against Albany may have been an anomaly, he should probably be playing more than three minutes a game because the Terriers may need him down the stretch, especially if fatigue does become a serious issue.

MBball wins fourth straight

Black Bears' start trumped by BU's finish

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