Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Day After: Boston University 71, Indiana University 67

After the Terriers' early losses, head coach Patrick Chambers repeatedly emphasized his focus on the process of day-to-day improvement as opposed to immediate results. Without discounting the importance of winning games, Chambers' message was clear: given sufficient time and effort, results would follow.

Throughout yesterday evening's 40 minutes of basketball, the Terriers never found their shooting touch. Indiana would not be defeated by raining 3-balls from outside or any other aesthetically pleasing option. BU was presented with two options: fight from tipoff to the final buzzer, or leave empty-handed. And BU chose the former.

The Terriers shot 29.3 percent from the floor last night, their worst percentage this season. As of this morning, there have been 32 other instances of a team shooting 29.3 percent or lower in a Division-I game this season. Each of those 32 poor shooting performances resulted in a loss; the Terriers are the exception. Consider only games against power-conference opponents -- the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, PAC-10, and SEC), plus Conference USA and the Mountain West -- and no team has managed to win while shooting less than 35 percent from the field so far this season.

With that in mind, take two things away from last night's win. First, BU must, absolutely must, find more success shooting the ball going forward. It's hard enough to beat good teams -- and yes, from the perspective of an America East conference member, a rebuilding Indiana counts as a good team. Throw in terrible shooting, and winning games becomes an extremely difficult task. The minimum level of shooting competency associated with a consistent winner depends on a variety of other factors, but in every case, it's higher than 29.3 percent. A lot higher.

But as poorly as the Terriers shot, they still won the game, and they did so by putting forth a tremendous effort. An undersized team from a small conference dominated the rebounding category. BU attempted 40 free throws, and BU earned those attempts by making aggressive plays and forcing Indiana to respond. Time after time, the Hoosiers denied the Terriers attempts to draw level, but every time Indiana tried to solidify its advantage, BU would find a way to start chipping away again. Persistence and an unwillingness to go away quietly kept the Terriers in position throughout the contest; that attitude eventually produced a final run, capturing the lead and Chambers' first career win.

-- The bigs. Specifically, Jake O'Brien and Jeff Pelage. O'Brien has started every game as the Terriers' go-to player down low, and yesterday he looked the part, totaling 14 points on 11 shots to go with 13 rebounds. Pelage, while a non-factor offensively (no points, four turnovers), collected nine rebounds in 18 minutes, adding a block for good measure.
-- Rebounding. A team starting three guards and a swingman needs everyone to chip in on the boards. Everyone did. In addition to O'Brien and Pelage, three other players had at least five rebounds: Corey Lowe with eight, and John Holland and Tyler Morris with five each.
-- Free throws. Lowe missed two down the stretch, but in total the Terriers were 29-of-40 from the charity stripe. Not too shabby.
-- B.J. Bailey. The freshman guard played his first minutes, scored his first points, and pulled down a couple of rebounds.

-- Shooting. Valdas Sirutis made his only field goal attempt. Eight other Terriers saw action, and each missed more than half his attempts. BU did well in most other categories; the slim margin of victory illustrates how damaging the Terriers' poor shooting was.
-- Corey Lowe. 2-of-13 shooting hurts. So do six turnovers. To his credit, Lowe stayed engaged in the game and made some big plays down the stretch, but the Terriers aren't at their best with their star guard misfiring from the field.

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