Monday, November 23, 2009

The Day After: Georgia Tech 85, Boston University 67

During the Terriers' first four games of the 2009-2010 season, each contest's constituent events -- the made shots, the missed shots, the hustle plays and the turnovers -- came together to tell their own story. The games were compelling enough in isolation. As poor as the BU offense has looked at times, up-and-down play makes for an exciting brand of basketball. But in context, an underlying question enhanced drama and fueled the tension felt by engaged observers. When would head coach Patrick Chambers secure his first win? When would the Terriers finally get over the hump?

By the time the Terriers stepped on the court to face Georgia Tech, those lingering questions had at last been answered, and in satisfying fashion. BU had its first win, one earned due to a praiseworthy effort against one of the biggest names in college basketball. Sunday offered a stiffer test, one posed by a team tailor-made to give the Terriers fits -- outstanding, physically imposing forwards with enough skill in the backcourt to keep BU honest at the defensive end.

And for 25 minutes, BU was up to the challenge.

The Yellow Jackets' Derrick Favors was forced to the bench by his second foul early on, forcing Georgia Tech to play the final 10:57 of the first half without one half of its dynamic frontcourt duo. Even when Favors returned to start the second half, BU hung tough, with John Holland stringing together a layup, a steal, and a fast-break dunk to cut Georgia Tech's lead to 52-51 with 14:53 remaining.

BU's next nine offensive possessions ended as follows: turnover, missed 3, turnover, missed layup, made 1 of 2 free throws, missed 3, missed 3, missed 3, turnover. That last turnover, coming out of a 30-second timeout, led to a dunk/foul for Iman Shumpert; the ensuing free throw was missed, recovered by Georgia Tech, and converted into two more points courtesy of Favors. 9:14 remained on the clock. The score was 68-52. The game was effectively over.

The Terriers' schedule is not replete with opponents boasting a likely top-5 NBA draft pick and another probable first-round pick in the frontcourt. Regardless of one's opinion of the BU frontcourt, the 16-rebound deficit from last night (Georgia Tech had 45 rebounds, the Terriers had 29) is unlikely to appear with regularity on Terrier box scores. If anything, the 52-32 rebounding advantage produced by BU on Friday indicates an ability and desire to perform well on the boards against teams whose forwards' talent levels are more typical.

Still, just as a win is a win, a loss is a loss. Returning home with a win in a difficult three-day tournament can be considered a positive result given the quality of the opposition, but the Terriers are 1-4 on the season. There is a long way to go and plenty of difficult matchups ahead.

Yesterday's game is a perfect example of how quickly a game can get out of hand, even when playing well for most of the game. Against Georgia Tech, the 85-67 outcome is understandable, and there are plenty of positives to bring back to Boston. Lesser teams, though, are also perfectly capable of seizing the opportunity for a big run should the Terriers lose their offensive touch for a few minutes. BU has been prone to experiencing extended stretches with little to no offense so far this season; without defense and rebounding, those stretches leave winnable games out of reach.

-- Turnovers: The Terriers broke through in the turnovers category, committing just nine total despite a Georgia Tech defense that had done an excellent job acquiring the ball against previous opponents. Corey Lowe had four turnovers; nobody else had more than two.
-- Free throws: BU continued a trend of finding ways to get to the free throw line, attempting 28 uncontested shots. 22 of those found the net, including 7-of-8 from...
-- John Holland: Holland came off the bench and was BU's best player, scoring 23 points and doing so in a variety of ways. The junior swingman also added five rebounds and three steals.

-- Rebounding: BU was overwhelmed on the boards. Given the opponent, such a result is understandable, even forgivable, but it can't become a trend.
-- Jake O'Brien: 13 rebounds against Indiana was excellent. Yesterday, though, he had just three to go with 3-of-12 shooting.
-- Shooting: O'Brien wasn't the only one missing shots. Corey Lowe was 5-of-15 while filling up the stat sheet in both good categories and bad. Carlos Strong managed only 1-of-8 from the field. Case Gym and more familiar rims await, but with each passing game, continued poor shooting becomes increasingly troubling.

Men's hoops goes 1-for-3 at Puerto Rico Tip-Off

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