Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From the FreeP: Terriers look to keep rolling over UMBC

By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff

Now in sole possession of second place in the America East Conference standings, the Boston University men’s basketball team will look to continue its four-game win streak as it takes on University of Maryland-Baltimore County Tuesday night.

After a rough stretch in which the team lost three of five games – all in conference play – to drop their overall record to 10-13, the Terriers (14-13, 9-4 AE) enter the game over the .500 plateau for the first time since Nov. 29, when they were 4-3.

Perhaps the hottest team in the conference right now, the Terriers will look to extend their win streak against a UMBC team that, after a disastrous 1-16 start to the season, has been playing relatively well recently, going 4-5 in its past nine contests.

Additionally, there is a measure of revenge for BU against the Retrievers (5-21, 4-9), who got just their second win of the season against the Terriers at home on Jan. 17.

Leading 64-55 after a 3-pointer from junior guard Darryl Partin with just 4:45 remaining in the game, the Terriers appeared poised to capture just their second road win of the season. That was until the then-cellar-dwelling Retrievers started playing with a killer instinct that hadn’t been seen in Baltimore since Omar Little was killed in the final season of ‘The Wire.’

UMBC capitalized on a cold-shooting BU team, one that only made one field goal in the game’s final four minutes, to claw back and ultimately take the lead behind a 16-3 run keyed by aggressive, assertive offensive play that resulted in eight made free throws.

Guard Chris De La Rosa led the way for the Retrievers that day with 23 points and five assists, playing a critical role in the late comeback.

Heading into Tuesday’s matchup, not too much has changed for UMBC – that is, stopping or at the very least neutralizing De La Rosa is the key to beating a resurgent Retriever squad that has provided its share of problems for even the top teams in the conference.

On the season, De La Rosa is averaging 16.3 points per game and a conference-leading 6.5 assists per game to go along with 4.3 rebounds per game, statistics that make many believe that the Washington Heights, N.Y. native may be honored as a first-team all-conference performer by season’s end.

Though not as integral to the teams’ success as De La Rosa, guard Travis King and forward Justin Fry are key contributors for the Retrievers. King, a graduate student who previously played at George Washington University, is averaging 9.2 points per game, while Fry, also a graduate student, ranks 11th in the conference with 5.6 rebounds per game.

But while the Retrievers have been playing arguably their best ball of the season, the Terriers team taking the court Tuesday night is very different from the one that was handed the embarrassing loss a month ago.

In the wake of junior forward Jake O’Brien’s season-ending foot injury, BU has rattled off four straight wins following a humbling 60-48 loss at University of New Hampshire and has now overtaken University of Maine for second place in the conference standings.

Starting with an 88-78 win over Maine in which senior forward John Holland recorded his 2,000th career point, a BU team with only three returning players – one of whom is out for the season and the other of whom has been hobbled throughout the season (junior center Jeff Pelage) – has seemingly gelled in the face of adversity.

After dispatching Stony Brook University on the road on Feb. 4, the Terriers earned a commanding 63-44 win over the University of Albany under the bright lights at Madison Square Garden in New York City last Thursday. The win was especially sweet for Holland, as the Bronx, N.Y., native provided himself with a proper homecoming by scoring 25 points and collecting four rebounds.

In the team’s most recent game against University of Hartford, it was Partin, along with Holland, who helped the Terriers come back from a halftime deficit to outscore the visiting Hawks 37-24 in the second half en route to a 61-50 win.

During this win streak, Holland has averaged 21 points per game and seven rebounds per game to spearhead the Terriers’ wave of success. With O’Brien out, Partin has established himself as a reliable No. 2 option for BU, averaging 18.8 points per game and three assists per game in the same four-game span.

Sitting 2.5 games behind University of Vermont for first place in the conference, the Terriers will look to extend their win streak to five and avenge the January loss with a 7:30 tip-off at Agganis Arena.

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