Saturday, December 12, 2009

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. Marist College

It's not the home stretch for the regular season by any means, but mid-December means finals for college students. We're not at that stage yet for BU Basketball. There's still three games left before conference play begins. Consider this final portion of pre-America East action the Terriers' midterms. There's a chance to evaluate, but success or failure here isn't going to make or break BU's season -- just set the team on a positive or negative trajectory entering conference play.

By all accounts, Marist is the easy part of the test. The Red Foxes have played six games. The Red Foxes have lost six games. There's a trend. If an 0-6 record isn't convincing enough, consider the opponents and the individual results. Marist lost to Hartford, now 2-9, by 37 points. Also included in that record is a loss to 2-8 Holy Cross. This is the easiest game on BU's non-conference schedule, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

That being said, this is also the Red Foxes' home opener. Nobody has seen Marist play on its home court. It's important for BU to come out early and put its foot down. If the Red Foxes get out to an early lead, the crowd gets into the game, and Marist is allowed to believe it has a serious chance of winning its first game of the season, this could be harder for BU than anticipated.

Marist embodies scoring balance. Six different players are averaging at least six points per game, but none averages double figures. The team's top scorer, freshman Candon Rusin, checks in at 9.3 points per game. Unfortunately for the Red Foxes, their scoring balance is primarily due to the absence of a real impact scorer, which explains why a freshman is leading the team in points per game.

BU had been heavily reliant on John Holland to provide plenty of offense, but last Sunday's game against Bucknell was strong evidence of the Terriers' ability to win without major offensive production from the junior swingman. Jake O'Brien's offensive game has evolved, featuring an increased emphasis on post and mid-range scoring. He and Carlos Strong, who scored 11 points late in Sunday's game, combined to give the Terriers an offensive lift in a game where Holland scored just 10 points, his lowest total of the season.

The Red Hawks are one of the worst offensive teams in Division-I, excelling in no aspect of the game and appearing suspect in virtually all of them. The Terrier defense should not be seriously tested. The task, then, is not to lay an egg on offense. Shoot the ball reasonably well, don't give away points by turning the ball over repeatedly, and BU should be in excellent shape to produce its first winning streak of the season.

After the Bucknell game, Chambers noted that a starting five featuring Bailey and Pelage would probably be used for the foreseeable future. Pelage hasn't shown the offensive growth BU supporters would hope for, but he's a big body and his rebounding has been excellent as usual. Bailey has looked good in virtually every game he's played, including games where he hasn't shot well. The freshman guard was 1-of-7 against Bucknell but made several big plays down the stretch to help the Terriers win. With Bailey and Pelage in the starting lineup, expect Corey Lowe and Carlos Strong to play serious minutes coming off the bench.

Expected starting lineups:
Boston University
G Tyler Morris
G B.J. Bailey
F/G John Holland
F Jake O'Brien
C Jeff Pelage

Marist College
G Dejuan Goodwin
G Sam Prescott
G Candon Rusin
F Rob Johnson
F Korey Bauer

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