Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Day After: (Vermont 75, BU 47)

As the post title suggests, The Day After is devoted to letting the previous night's game sink in and seeing where things stand once 24 hours have passed. Well, it's 24 hours later and the loss still highlights what an impressive performance Vermont put on in their home gym to gain control of first place in America East and leave both BU's a half-game behind. In the 75-47 victory, it was once again UVM's ball pressure and active defense that led to far too many mistakes by the Terriers. Once the Catamounts stole the momentum (after a block on Marques Johnson by Marqus Blakely which led to a 3-pointer by Mike Trimboli in transition), the Terriers seemed too fatigued or too disoriented to mount a comeback.

It was the first time since BU's first loss against UVM (70-56) -- in which BU coach Dennis Wolff criticized the team for a lack of toughness -- that the team did, in fact, look weaker than the opponent and also the first time during the now-defunct eight-game winning streak the Terriers executed an extremely inefficient offense. Corey Lowe looked uncomfortable bringing the ball up court against Nick Vier, who was playing Lowe tightly all night, and that led to six turnovers and only one assist from the junior point guard (who ended up playing a good amount of the 2 when Johnson was in the game for Wolff, who picked up his fourth foul five minutes into the second half). Even when Lowe was off-ball, the 3-pointers he took in the second half were off-balance. Granted two of them went in and he led all scorers, but the ability of Vermont to seemingly throw him off for the first time in a long time is what's troubling.

In addition, the Catamounts were able to silence John Holland (who, I'm sure you know by now, grabbed the top spot on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays for his one-handed jam over Evan Fjeld). He scored only two points in the second half and finished with 14 -- roughly eight under his scoring average against conference opponents and four under his average for the season. Holland's emotions appeared to be roller coaster-like, which led to him being sat down by Wolff for the final 3:37. While Holland has played with extreme poise and discipline since the start of conference play, the Terriers can't afford to have him lose focus or continue to hit extended dry spells in the second half if they hope to rebound from the loss.

Speaking of, BU's next game now becomes almost as important Wednesday's. Binghamton also has 9-3 conference record and has won their last four contests. The last time the two teams met, the Terriers won in blowout fashion as all of their pieces clicked, but if BU plays as sporadically as it did against Vermont or they don't receive a complete effort (as Wolff, Brittain and O'Brien were all less of a factor than they've been in conference play), the Terriers could be in trouble. Sidenote: O'Brien had a string of 10-consecutive double-digit scoring games snapped against UVM.

Listed below pros/cons are the remaining schedules for the top three teams in America East. If Binghamton wins Saturday, they'd be in good shape to win the conference as they hold the tiebreaker over UVM. If the Terriers win, it'll put Vermont in good shape to claim the first seed, but also put the Terriers in a much better position to win (with some help from UVM) than if they lost on Saturday.

-- Defense: While there were too many backdoor cuts and good looks from Trimboli, UVM was also on the extreme top of its game. BU's trap was working well, especially at half court.
-- Holland's dunk: If you haven't seen it, it's linked below. Do yourself a favor and scroll down.

-- Turnovers: The Terriers turned the ball over 21 times and assisted only five baskets. Doesn't matter if you're facing the extremely aggressive defense of UVM or not, that's never going to get the job done.
-- Energy level: Perhaps it's fatigue finally starting to get to this group (which has basically played five players since mid-January) but after a strong burst of energy and dominance in the first 10 minutes of the first half, Vermont completely took over and the Terriers looked lost.
-- Untimely fouls: Wolff's fourth foul was extremely ill-advised and it's the first time since BU became short-staffed that a player picked up a fourth foul that early in the second half. There were a few other unnecessary fouls that BU will need to avoid making down the stretch.

Catamounts demolish M. BBall
Cats claim top spot
John Holland's Sports Center No. 1 Dunk

University of Vermont (19-7, 10-3):
2.15: vs. Stony Brook (14-11, 6-6)
2.17: @ Maryland-Baltimore County (11-13, 5-7)
2.21: vs. Buffalo (17-5, 8-1)*
3.1: @ Maine (9-16, 4-8)
*ESPNU Bracketbusters matchup

Boston University (14-10, 9-3):
2.14: vs. Binghamton University (16-8, 9-3)
2.18: @ Stony Brook (14-11, 6-6)
2.21: vs. Iona (11-14, 6-8)*
2.26: vs. Maine (9-16, 4-8)
3.1: vs. Hartford (6-20, 2-10) (Agganis Arena)
*ESPNU Bracketbusters matchup

Binghamton University (16-8, 9-3):
2.14: @ Boston University (14-10, 9-3)
2.18: @ Hartford (6-20, 2-10)
2.22: vs. New Hampshire (9-14, 4-7)
2.26: vs. Maryland-Baltimore County (11-13, 5-7)

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