No discussion of last night's game at the Hartford XL Center can begin without noting the obvious: BU is not at full strength right now. The Terriers haven't been healthy all season, but yesterday's roster situation bordered on the ridiculous. After suffering from a thin bench against Harvard, the Terriers essentially swapped one of their two best players, Corey Lowe, for a freshman, B.J. Bailey, then hit the road for a game against the most talented opponent on the schedule. The above is not a recipe for success.
That being said, last night's 28-point loss offered some additional information about how BU can be expected to play going forward, even if last night's team hardly resembled what the Terriers hope to field come January.
Similar to the Georgia Tech game, BU came out swinging despite being overmatched, holding a small lead intermittently for most of the first 10 minutes. The Terriers' subsequent collapse was largely a defensive one, as UConn poured in 37 points between the 10-minute mark of the first half and halftime. Mistakes on the offensive end certainly didn't help -- BU's shot selection wasn't exactly ideal -- but at the rate the Huskies were scoring, even the best-case scenario for the Terrier offense probably wouldn't be enough to keep up. Down 18 at halftime, the outcome was decided for all intents and purposes.
The individual worthy of blame in this instance is whom? Nobody, really. A depleted BU team had trouble guarding a more athletic, more skilled opponent, which is no surprise. On the offensive end, some shooting performances were particularly poor -- Carlos Strong's 0-of-7 from the field sticks out like a sore thumb, as does Tyler Morris' 3-of-14 -- but after Bailey's 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting, there isn't another scorer worthy of praise. John Holland and Jake O'Brien, yesterday's big guns, put up numbers but used a ton of possessions in the process.
The rebounding numbers were ugly, but they were also a product of the catch-22 UConn poses. As expected, the Huskies' defense shut BU down inside the arc -- in this respect, losing Lowe's ability to create really hurt. BU needed to make shots from the perimeter in order to get something going and open up opportunities closer to the basket. When that didn't happen, UConn had no incentive to sell out defending Terrier shooters, which in turn prevented BU from getting near the rim and exposing UConn's substandard defensive rebounding.
BU's defensive rebounding difficulties should have been expected -- the Huskies crash the glass on offense, and do so quite well. The Terriers' offensive rebounding woes are more disappointing. We'll never know how this game would have evolved if BU's shooters hit their shots. Then again, BU hasn't hit many shots all year.
It all comes back to shooting. Head coach Patrick Chambers' offense is generating open looks, Maybe it's not giving BU a wide-open shot every single time down the court, but the opportunities are there. When open shots are there for the taking, the Terriers have to make them. The threat posed by a team willing to take -- and make -- open shots puts enormous pressure on a defense. Conversely, a team that either passes up wide-open shots or can't make them with some regularity scares no one.
Lowe can return. Valdas Sirutis can return. Scott Brittain can return. None of them will fix the fundamental problem -- poor shooting -- merely by showing up. As long as the Terriers' team shooting percentage resides in the 30s game after game, the offense is going to struggle. As long as the offense continues to struggle, BU will have trouble winning games, even against supposedly inferior opposition.
And supposedly inferior opposition is what lies ahead. Bucknell is 4-4 with three empty victories, one quality win over Delaware, and an ugly double-digit loss to Columbia. Marist is winless. Injuries or otherwise, BU needs its offense to start producing some points, lest it start losing games it has no business losing.
-- B.J. Bailey. Like John Holland and Jake O'Brien, he scored in double figures. Unlike those two, he didn't waste possessions in doing so.
-- Turnovers. Just 12 for BU, while UConn had 17. When Corey Lowe returns, expect the turnover numbers to climb again, but given Lowe's ability to create for others, the Terriers will have to live with it.
-- Injuries. Nobody got hurt. Given the injury luck BU has dealt with to date, consider this a plus.
-- Shooting. 30.3 percent shooting is abysmal. End of story.
-- Rebounding. The Terriers couldn't rebound on either end, giving up 54 boards while pulling down only 29. UConn crashes the glass on offense to great effect, but BU needed to do a better job collecting some of its own misses.
-- Fouling on defense. BU took 22 free throws (good) and made 17 (also good). But UConn was 30-of-35 at the charity stripe. UConn's superior athleticism put BU in difficult situations, but that alone does not justify granting the opponent 35 free shots.