Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Day After: (BU 99, Stony Brook 97, 4 OT's)

Remember how the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl was so bone-chillingly exciting that it made it onto ESPN Classic the very next day as an "Instant Classic"? Well, had the Terriers been on any sort of television station, their game against Stony Brook University yesterday afternoon could very well have ended up on that network give how thrilling the game was.

Not only was BU able to prevail in a close game (something this junior class is notorious for not being able to do) but the contest featured a number of exceptional individual performances -- John Holland's career-high in 3's and 60 minutes played, Corey Lowe's dominant take-over of the second half and overtimes, Chris Martin's sheer willpower and fight to keep his team in the game, Tommy Brenton's SBU record-setting 17 rebounds. All of those, mixed with a number of memorable plays including: Muhammad El-Amin's game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, Scott Brittain's brilliant spinning post move just before that, Jake O'Brien's 3-pointer in the second overtime to give the Terriers hope, Lowe's length-of-the-court drive to tie the game, made it one of the more memorable experiences at The Roof in quite some time.

Sure, we could sit here and analyze how brilliant individual performances were, and don't get me wrong, I'm not taking any credit away from any individual, but aside from the small shooting percentage disparity, the stats were nearly identical. Rather, what the 500+ fans and reporters witnessed in Monday's quadruple overtime thriller was (though BU coach Dennis Wolff refused to acknowledge anything of the sort) a big step for the Terriers and one that showed they do possess the heart, grit and determination to win at all costs -- in the face of tough shots, untimely mistakes and four frickin' overtimes.

The win was a big step not only because they accomplished the feat with a short bench (Holland played a school record 60 minutes and both O'Brien and Lowe played 56), but because after giving up an 11-point second half lead or going down by five points with less than a minute to go in the second overtime, this team might have folded in the past. But not yesterday. Yesterday Wolff expressed how proud he was of his team for the effort they gave and in a virtual 180-degree turn from the efforts they put forth against Cornell and Holy Cross, BU was the team with enough will and determination to get the job done. Never have I seen, or many people there probably seen, such desire and passion from two teams for that long a period as even the first half was played at a high level (intensity and execution-wise). Usually overtimes are anti-climactic, but each extra session built upon itself right up until the final play where Stony Brook could have (and probably should have) tied it again with a tip-in by Brenton.

If anything, the win finally puts to bed the notion that the Terriers are flat-out unable to close out games. Corey Lowe had the most to do with that during his performance for the ages in the second half and overtimes (scoring all 33 of his points in that time span), but so did the entire team, right down to two of their more important missing pieces in dress clothes at the end of the bench in Tyler Morris and Carlos Strong, who were just as emotionally invested in what was happening as the players on the court.

Both teams deserve an immense amount of credit (not to sound like a coach, but it's true) for being able to find a way to keep playing for 20 extra minutes and continue playing at such a high level. It's not something any of these players have done before in their collegiate careers and it's probably something they'll never do again.

While none of BU's games have seemed to impact the next (take the extremely encouraging loss against Notre Dame which led to a five-game losing streak for example), it will once again be interesting to see how the Terriers respond following one of the most resounding wins in program history.

-- John Holland's minutes: Holland, who used to be criticized for a lack of toughness as early as the beginning of this season, certainly toughened-up for this one as he never left the floor. Holland played all 60 minutes of the marathon, a feat he will hold in the BU record books for quite some time (probably all-time) and one that commands an immense amount of respect.
-- Corey Lowe's takeover: Lowe was absolutely dominant after "waking up" in the second half, connecting on half of his field goals (11-of-22), a game-tying layup with four seconds left in the second overtime and a number of fearless drives to the basket.
-- Scott Brittain's move: While it was only one play, and many could be selected, to see such a powerful confident move from the big man at crunch time is something nobody has seen from him much in the past and it's a great sign for BU moving forward.

-- Jeff Pelage's missed dunk: Pelage had a great game and continues to improve, but the dunk could have given BU some serious momentum. Instead, the miss helped Stony Brook complete their 11-point comeback.
-- Zone rebounding: This really shouldn't be here as anything to criticize in the third and fourth overtimes should be thrown out the window, but the Terriers did have some trouble rebounding out of the zone, which forced Wolff to use a man-to-man defense later in the game.

ESPN Radio Interview with Dennis Wolff
BU-Stony Brook was an extra special game (Bob Ryan)
Gone in 60 minutes
BU wins in fourth overtime
Stony Brook falls in 4OT's to BU

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