Saturday afternoon's game between the sixth-seeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County will mark the first time the two teams have faced each other in the conference tournament and the third time the teams play this season. The Retrievers are the defending America East Champions and they boast two of the most talented players int he conference in senior point guard Jay Greene and senior forward Darryl Proctor -- a daunting task in the first round to say the least.
The biggest focus for the Terriers will be on seizing the momentum of their three-game winning streak and somehow summoning the play of the same BU squad that reeled off eight-straight games in the middle of the season. For BU, the offense revolves around Corey Lowe and John Holland. Often, as Lowe goes, so go the Terriers and he'll need to perform well on the biggest stage of the season if BU has hopes of advancing. Lowe has combined for 37 points against the Retrievers and is beginning to play better basketball after being benched in the second half against Stony Brook. That game was the middle contest of a three-game stretch during which Lowe scored a combined 17 points on 6-of-27 shooting. He burst out of his career-worst shooting slump in BU's final two games of the season, however, and appears back to for just in time for the tournament. Still, he'll need to not only shoot well for the Terriers offense to be effective, but also be an efficient facilitator.
Additionally, John Holland (who scored 25 points against the University at Albany in SEFCU earlier this year without Lowe on the floor and combined for 40 in two games against UMBC) must rebound for a poor showing in last years' tournament, which came to a point when the sophomore forward didn't play in the second half of BU's loss to Hartford. Holland's the most talented scorer on the team and this could be his tournament to impress in given his extreme amount of consistency (18 points per game) scoring the basketball.
Also pivotal to BU's success will be the post players, especially Scott Brittain and Jeff Pelage, who have been accosted all year by the Terriers' coaching staff and have shown flashes of brilliance. Still, with both having eFG percentages of under 50, BU hasn't been as efficient in the post as coach Dennis Wolff would like. Pelage's play of late has been aggressive and powerful and he could be a "secret weapon" of sorts in the tournament as teams probably didn't see this Pelage during the regular season. Brittain's play will be another x-factor as his post efficiency could make the difference if the game is close.
Senior Matt Wolff, after suffering a severe concussion against Hartford last Sunday, began practicing with the Terriers on Wednesday and will play against UMBC. Another, and much more unexpected source of playing time will come from Sherrod Smith. Smith performed well against Hartford in the season finale after virtually not playing all season. Because of his performance, Wolff said he earned the right to get some minutes in the tourney.
Rookie of the Year, Jake O'Brien, set his career-high scoring total against UMBC on February 2, with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting. While UMBC coach Randy Monroe certainly knows his capabilities, he still has the ability to shoot over people basically any time he wants and if his confidence against the Retrievers continues, he could have a major impact on the game.
As poorly as the Terriers played against last-place Hartford on Sunday, the Terriers were able to accomplish a feat that escaped them all season -- win a game when trailing with 5:00 to go in the game. BU's overtime win put them at 1-8 on the year when trailing with 5:00 left and the Terriers are 0-3 when tied at the 5:00 mark.
BU will most likely implement a matchup zone against the Retrievers, but don't be surprised if Wolff uses a little more man-to-man than usual, as it worked well in BU's 80-77 double overtime victory at Case Gymnasium this year, especially with Matt Wolff guarding Proctor effectively. UMBC is healthy (yet still not very deep, much like BU) and the draw is one of the most evenly-matched first-round games.
As far as the history aspect of the macthup is concerned, The Terriers haven't lost a quarterfinal game in the America East Tournament in two years as the current junior class roared back to beat Binghamton in 2006-07 and upset No. 3 Albany in the first round at Binghamton. As a No. 3 seed, the Terriers are 7-7 all-time and are 7-2 all-time against six seeds.
Terriers' season faces judgment this weekend in AE tourney
Projected Starting Lineups