Thursday, January 20, 2011

Clash of the AE Titans

By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff

After taking a sizable step backwards in its season after a 71-67 loss to cellar-dwelling University of Maryland-Baltimore County, the Boston University men’s basketball team returns home to take on Stony Brook University at Case Gymnasium.

The Terriers (8-11, 3-2 America East) bring a hobbling team into the game against the Seawolves (7-10, 2-3 America East), as junior forward Jake O’Brien remains sidelined with an injury and freshmen forward Dom Morris has only recently returned to the lineup from an injury of his own.

Compensating for these losses, BU has received key, elevated contributions from several players at different positions.

Junior guard Darryl Partin, a transfer from La Salle University, has averaged 17.8 points per game in BU’s five conference games. Additionally, senior forward John Holland, a preseason All-America East pick, has continued to assert control of the team, averaging 20.6 ppg and five rebounds per game.

On the strength of such performances, along with the strong inside presence gained with the return of junior center Jeff Pelage, the Terriers ran through much of their early conference slate, going 3-1, a stretch of games that included the program’s first win over the University of Vermont since Feb. 14, 2008.

However, much of this early momentum was undone as the Terriers squandered a nine-point lead in the final minutes and fell to UMBC Jan. 17 in Baltimore. The Retrievers were 1-16 entering the game before doubling their season win total against the preseason favorite to win the conference title.

Against the lowly Retrievers, BU continued to struggle shooting the ball, going a mere 39.3 percent from the field, compared to UMBC’s 48.9 percent shooting. The poor shooting against UMBC was hardly an anomaly as the Terriers rank 325 out of 247 Division I men’s basketball teams in field goal percentage, sporting a mere 38.8 percent clip from the field.

Just three nights later, BU will now try to get back on the proverbial track against Stony Brook, a team BU hasn’t played since the semifinals of the 2010 America East tournament when the Terriers knocked off the top-seeded Seawolves 70-63.

Thursday night’s matchup, though, will feature two very different, remade teams that are in precariously different situations in this juncture of the season. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Corey Lowe and Muhammad El-Amin are not walking through that door.

Coming off their first regular season conference title in program history, the Seawolves have struggled to maintain consistency throughout the season thus far, especially with the loss of last season’s conference player of the year, El-Amin, to graduation and athletic forward Tommy Brenton, who has missed the entire season due to a knee injury.

In the absence of those two players, Stony Brook has been carried by the play of Bryan Dougher, who has posted a team-high 13.3 ppg. Known largely as a sharpshooter, especially from 3-point range, Dougher has struggled from the field this season, shooting only 32.4 percent from field goal range and a pedestrian (relatively speaking) 33.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Much like BU, Steve Pikiell and his Seawolves squad have been saddled with the bad fortune of costly injuries to key players. In addition to the versatile Brenton, Stony Brook has also been without guard Chris Martin, the team’s third leading scorer and second leading rebounder, for the past eight games with an injury.

The two teams, both picked to contend for the conference title before the season started, will tip off at 7 p.m. as each looks to respond to tough losses.

No comments: