By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – After overcoming a slow start to get past the University of New Hampshire in the America East Tournament quarterfinals, the Boston University men's basketball team will prepare for a different challenge entirely in the semifinals as it takes on the host University of Hartford Sunday night at Chase Family Arena.
The Hawks, the tournament's sixth-seed, enter the game fresh off of a 66-63 win over the third-seeded University of Maine, a win seemingly so monumental for Hartford that its fans rushed the court as the final buzzer sounded.
The Terriers, however, will do all that is within their power to prevent a similar celebration as they try to extend a season-high nine-game win streak and make their second consecutive conference championship game appearance in the process.
After the first five minutes of its game against New Hampshire, it appeared as though BU was on track to see not only its win streak end, but also its once-promising season.
The Wildcats utilized its own hot-shooting and a slow start to the game from the Terriers to build a 12-3 lead with 14:47 left in the first half. But BU, behind a game-high 17 points from senior forward John Holland playing with no signs of an apparent left ankle injury, managed to go on a 30-18 run to close out the half, building a lead that it would ultimately not surrender for the remainder of the contest.
Part of BU's success against New Hampshire rested in its ability to succeed in an area of the game -- rebounding -- that BU coach Pat Chambers routinely stresses and a facet in which the Wildcats traditionally overwhelm their AE opposition. For the game, BU outrebounded New Hampshire 37-33, including several offensive boards that led to critical second-chance points. Junior forward Pat Hazel, matched up against top rebounders like New Hampshire center Dane Diliegro for much of the game, recording a team-high 10 boards.
Helping Holland on the offensive end were junior guard Darryl Partin and freshman guard D.J. Irving who, despite poor shooting days, each tallied 11 points. Persevering through poor shooting days was not something limited to Partin and Irving as BU struggled from beyond the arc, going 3-of-15, despite shooting 46-percent from the field.
BU's uncharacteristic woes from deep will certainly have to improve in its next game as it plays the Hawks, who have the inherent advantage of playing on their home court.
First-year coach John Gallagher and his Hartford team, coming off the emotional win over Maine, are on a win streak of their own, having won three of their last four games. The Hawks also present BU with the challenging of having to contain two of the conference's top players in guard Joe Zeglinski, a second-team All-AE selection, and forward Morgan Sabia, a third-team All-AE honoree, who suffered a minor injury that limited him to only 10 minutes against the Black Bears.
However, in the win over Maine, it was the efforts of forward/center Genesis Maciel and forward Anthony Minor that ultimately lifted the Hawks to the upset win. Maciel, filling in for the injured Sabia, led all scorers with 19 points on 6-0f-9 shooting -- including 5-of-7 from 3-point range -- and Minor added 14 points, five rebounds and a game-high five steals.
Indeed, the task of toppling the Hawks, especially in front of a home crowd, extends far beyond limiting Zeglinski and Sabia. And it will be a task and a challenge that the Terriers -- who have looked to build a foundation based upon defense and rebounding the entire season -- will have to undertake if they hope to extend their win streak into double digits and continue their road to a possible conference championship and a NCAA Tournament berth.