By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff
With just two regular season games remaining before the all-important America East Conference tournament, the Boston University men’s basketball team will travel to Vestal, N.Y. to take on Binghamton University on Thursday night.
The Terriers (16-13, 10-4) head into the late-season matchup riding a recent wave of momentum from a season-high six-game win streak. Meanwhile, the Bearcats (7-20, 4-10) have been in something of a nosedive for the greater part of the past month, having lost 10 of their past 11 games.
The teams last met on Jan. 26 in Agganis Arena, a game in which BU escaped with a 71-66 win, lifting the Terriers to within two games of the .500 plateau at 10-12.
In that victory, BU utilized a three-headed scoring attack comprised of junior guard Darryl Partin, senior forward John Holland and freshman forward/center Dom Morris that tallied 51 of the team’s 71 points.
Partin posted a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds, while Holland added 16 points and Morris chipped in 15 of his own.
The Bearcats were led by a hot-shooting performance from forward Mahamoud Jabbi, who shot 9-of-14 from the field to score a game-high 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds, another game high.
Many of the challenges that the Bearcats present to the Terriers have not changed in weeks since the two teams last met – that is, except for the presence of Binghamton forward Greer Wright.
Wright, a preseason all-conference selection, missed the Jan. 26 contest with a nagging injury. The senior forward has been the Bearcats’ leading scorer this season with 12.4 points per game, albeit on paltry 38.8 percent field goal shooting.
Jabbi, who carried Binghamton’s offense in Wright’s absence against BU, has been equally important to the Bearcats’ success this season, averaging a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game to go along with 1.7 blocks, ranking him second in AE. Such defensive numbers have made Jabbi a favorite for the conference defensive player of the year award.
Such individual performances have been a positive sign for a Binghamton program that is still in the process of transitioning from a series of arrests and suspensions under the watch of former coach Kevin Broadus that made the program and school a subject of national ridicule and embarrassment.
Binghamton officially ushered in a new era for its basketball program as it removed the interim tag from coach Mark Macon, rewarding him with a contract extension through the 2013-14 season.
With his job status firmly in place, Macon insists that his team does not want to embrace a role as a spoiler, or a role as a team that surprises others late in the season.
“We want people to know we’re coming. When I knock on your door, I want you to know who it is,” Macon said on Jan. 14. “If you don’t, I might steal something. We’re not trying to surprise anyone.
“Like I said, if I knock on your door and you ain’t there, it’s your fault your TV got stolen, not mine.”
But for a team looking to end an extended skid, it may take more than a borderline-criminal instinct to take down a Terrier team that is playing as well as anyone in the conference.
In the wake of the loss of junior forward Jake O’Brien to a season-ending foot injury, BU has been largely propelled by a one-two scoring punch of Holland and Partin.
During the team’s six-game win streak, Holland has averaged 22.7 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game, numbers that have only worked to enhanced his resume for a potential AE Player of the Year award.
Partin has emerged as the team’s clear second scoring option, averaging 19.7 points per game in the same six-game span.
Perhaps most importantly for BU, the team’s shooting has improved markedly over the past month. While the Terriers still rank 308th among 347 Division I teams in field goal percentage at 40.4 percent, BU has shot no worse than 44 percent in any given game on the team’s current tear.
With only two conference games remaining for both teams, the game holds tremendous AE tournament implications.
With University of Vermont having already clinched the top seed and home court advantage for the conference championship, BU has a seemingly firm grip on the second seed, needing only one win or a loss from University of Maine to ensure itself the No. 2 spot.
On the other hand, Binghamton needs to win its final two games and have either University of New Hampshire, Stony Brook University or University of Hartford lose both of its final two games in order to have a chance at avoiding the No. 8 seed and a spot in the play-in game against the No. 9 seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Binghamton Events Center.