By Luke Coughlan/DFP Staff
After starting just one game of eight on the year for the Boston University men’s basketball team and accepting his role as the team’s strongest spark from off of the bench, junior guard Matt Griffin will be back in the starting five again when the Terriers take on Bucknell University on Saturday evening.
The tri-captain transfer from Rider University is in his first year with the Terriers (4-4), and his recent success as the team’s leader in shooting percentage with .458—for players with more than 22 field goal attempts—has caught BU coach Patrick Chambers’ attention and earned him the start against the Bison (3-6).
“We talked about [putting Griffin back in the starting lineup] on Wednesday, Chambers said. “It has nothing to do with [the team’s recent loss to] Kentucky [University]. It has nothing to do with [freshman guard] D.J. [Irving, the team’s current starter]. It has everything to do with leadership, and that’s what we need out there because we’re starting games kind of slowly.
“So, Matt will start on Saturday. [Another reason for the change is that] D.J. is getting in foul trouble. It’s like a catch 22. We need leadership on the floor, but D.J. is picking up two quick fouls. So, alright, let’s start Matt. He’s got great leadership, and also for D.J., it might benefit him too. He might get more minutes if he doesn’t have two quick fouls in the first ten minutes.”
Griffin had his best game against Marist College on November 19 in which he scored 21 points off of the bench and was perfect from the floor. His first and only start for the Terriers came in the team’s season opening loss to Northeastern University, 66-64, in which Irving had an impressive performance with 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists in his collegiate debut. Since then, Griffin has been the team’s best option from the field, and has run the Terrier offense confidently.
“The kid is the hardest worker on the team,” Chambers said. “He’s a great leader. He does it vocally. He does it by his actions, which is great. It’s what we need. We’re a young team, and we need leadership. We’re four and four, which is a good thing. We’ve played some tough teams and a tough schedule. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do. He’s defending, he’s rebounding, he’s making shots.”
The Terriers will face a tough shooting team when they meet the Bison in Lewisburg, Penn. on Saturday. Bucknell boasts a .439 shooting percentage, which is .064 better than the Terriers’ .375 clip. They also have five players shooting better than .400 compared to the Terriers’ two, and seven who shoot better than .390 compared to the Terriers’ three.
“We have to share the ball a little bit more and we have to get the ball from side to side, and we have to play unselfish basketball,” Chambers said of how the team can improve their field goal percentage. “I also think we’ve played a heck of schedule, too. We’ve played some very good defensive teams. They do that to you. They force you into bad shots, quick shots and not in-rhythm shots. I think we have to go out there, compete hard, and share the basketball.”
The Bison’s best player is sophomore forward/center Mike Muscala. The 6-foot-11-inch, 232 pound big man outweighs every Terrier player except for freshman forward Dom Morris, and he will be the tallest player on the floor on Saturday. Not only is Muscala an inside presence, he can hit shots too. He leads the Bison in points with 123, blocks with 14, rebounds per game with 5.4, and field goal percentage with and even .500 clip—for players with more than five field goal attempts.
“He’s a very good big,” Chambers said. “He’s a very good presence. We have to make it uncomfortable for him all night long. We’ve got to try to out-work him in the post, and we’ve got to be physical with him, and we’ve got to play smart. He’s a talented player, a gifted player. He’s great in the post. He can shoot fifteen footers. He can step out and shoot threes. I mean, he’s a very good basketball player. But, we’ll play five against him, and play tight together, and we’ll take our chances.”
The Bison are coming off of a close home win over Columbia University on Wednesday, 73-68, and will look to start their first winning streak of the season with a win over the Terriers. BU, conversely, will look to climb over .500 for the second time on their season by rebounding after a tough loss to Kentucky on Tuesday, 91-57. They will also be looking to score their first true road win of the season, as their two away wins were won on neutral courts.
The game will mark the last of a tough stretch of games to start the season for the Terriers in which six of their first nine took place outside of New England. After playing Bucknell, the Terriers will remain in Massachusetts for the rest of the month of December.
“It’s going to be great,” Chambers said. “This tough stretch is going to be behind us, and I’m proud of the way our guys have handled their business—academics, traveling, the way they’re conducting themselves, in the airports, in hotels, arenas. They’re doing a great job of sticking together, hanging out, and building a brothership, which is great. And it’s going to be so amazing for these kids to sleep in their own beds and be able to go to class again, practice at the roof and play at Agganis [Arena] next week. It’s going to be great for us and great for these kids. It’s been a long three weeks, and I’d like to see us finish strong here.”