Whether attending last night's season opener in New Rochelle, NY, or watching or listening to the game from afar, the excitement associated with the start of the Patrick Chambers Era was palpable. And in some respects, the Terriers' first game under their new head coach lived up to the hype. If nothing else, the game was fast -- 76 possessions per team, easily outstripping the pace set by last year's team.
But fast, it seems, applies to more than just the pace of the game. After months of preparation, it appears the final weeks leading up to last night's events may have gone by too quickly, for while the Terriers showed some positive signs, the results on the court were those of a team not quite ready for prime time. For every possession ending with an open shot, another ended with a turnover; every heady defensive play was counterbalanced by an unnecessary foul.
Give credit where credit is due. Iona may have been picked ninth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but the Gaels hung tough and caused some major problems for BU with their full-court pressure. Hitting big shots at key moments helps too: every time the Terriers started to make a run, Iona was there to answer. The Gaels executed a gameplan centered around pressuring a depleted BU team and getting opposing players in foul trouble; that plan worked to a T. Couple Iona's execution with the Terriers' thin roster, and it's easy to seehow BU struggled.
What's not easy to see, however, is the Terriers' upcoming schedule. After Tuesday's home opener against George Washington, BU will play three games in Puerto Rico, all of which will be quite difficult. Northeastern, picked to finish second in the CAA, will be waiting when the Terriers return. While no game should ever be classified as an impossible task, the Colonials are the most lightly regarded team BU will play between now and Thanksgiving. No November game is classified as a "must-win", but Chambers would certainly like to get his first career win out of the way.
The Terriers, to a man, have detailed their philosophy of getting better one day at a time. This team -- specifically, the offense, which averaged less than a point per possession last night -- has better performances in it. At some point, the Terriers will shoot with a success rate far exceeding the 38.2 percent posted last night, and at some point the Terriers will finish a game with less than 22 turnovers. Noticeable results, particularly when implementing a new system, take time.
In short, don't read into this result too much. The characteristic elements of BU's new style of play should be similar to what was exhibited last night, but the details will continue to evolve.
-- Team rebounding: The Terriers weren't a particularly good rebounding team last year, and the absence of Scott Brittain figured to make things even more difficult for BU yesterday. Kudos to the Terrier guards, particularly Carlos Strong, who lived up to his name by ripping down 11 rebounds as BU slightly edged the Gaels on the glass.
-- Tyler Morris: BU's primary offensive weapons may have had a rough night, but Morris appeared to be his vintage self, leading all scorers with 21 points and doing so efficiently: 5-of-9 from the field, 3-of-7 from 3 and 8-of-10 from the line. The rest of his numbers, while unimpressive, belie his on-court contributions, as Morris' defensive pressure caused Iona miscues and his ball movement led to more open shots than a single assist would suggest.
-- Poor shooting: Blame it on the rims, blame it on whoever you want, but shots were not falling for the Terriers last night. John Holland was 3-of-13 and Corey Lowe was 5-of-15. That's not going to cut it. This should correct itself, as the Terriers were, for the most part, taking good shots. Lowe and Holland had open looks, and Chambers wants his shooters to shoot when they're open. Eventually BU's sharpshooters will get dialed in; yesterday, though, missed shots left many well-executed possessions in need of a positive result.
-- Turnovers: Yes, the pace is faster. A fast pace does not equal sloppy play and, press or not, ending nearly 30 percent of offensive possessions with a turnover is no recipe for success. Several BU possessions were ended by offensive fouls called on players well away from the ball, which are inexcusable considering the Terriers' thin roster. In any game, players travel or step on the sideline or make the occasional errant pass -- it's habitually committing extra turnovers that will get a team into trouble.