Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Terriers face a high-quality squad in Cleveland State Friday in TicketCity Legends Classic

By Shep Hayes/DFP Staff

Searching for both its first win of the 2011-2012 season and of the Joe Jones era, the Boston University men’s basketball team will face off against Cleveland State University at 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. As part of the Kingston Subregional of the TicketCity Legends Classic, the game will be played at the Thomas M. Ryan Center on the campus of the University of Rhode Island.

The Terriers enter the contest on a three-game losing streak, after falling 71-66 to the Cornell University Big Red last Sunday in Ithaca, N.Y. One week before that game, the Terriers (0-3) lost in the opening round of the Legends Classic to the University of Texas Longhorns, 82-46, in Austin, Texas. BU opened its season with a 82-74 overtime loss to the Northeastern University Huskies in a packed Case Gymnasium two nights before it played the Longhorns.

Through the three losses, senior guard Daryl Partin has led the Terriers in scoring by a large margin, averaging 22.7 points per game. Partin has also been one of the more efficient shooters for BU, getting an average of one point with each of his possessions. Sophomore guard D.J. Irving follows Partin in scoring, with an average of 12.3 points per game. Sophomore forward Dom Morris leads the Terriers in both rebound categories, with 8 offensive and 20 defensive boards.

Compared to the Terriers, Cleveland State is a completely different story. The Vikings are 4-0 since opening their season on November 13th. That afternoon, CSU upset preseason-No. 7 Vanderbilt University 71-58 to open the Legends Classic for both teams in Nashville, Tenn. The Vikings controlled the game from the outset, only letting the Commodores come within striking distance once in each half. Since then, Cleveland State has earned home victories against the University of Rio Grande, Saint Bonaventure University, as well as on the road at Kent State University.

As calculated by Basketball State, a NCAA Division I basketball statistics website, Cleveland State currently is the owner of the best RPI. In voting for the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll, the Vikings fell just short of making it into the rankings.

The Vikings are led in points by guard D’Aundary Brown, who has averaged 16.3 per game. He is closely followed by guards Trevon Harmon and Jeremy Montgomery, who average 11.3 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. Montgomery leads the team with 14 assists, while Brown has 11 offensive rebounds. Forward Anton Grady is the Vikings defensive rebound leader, with 14 total boards so far.

Offensively, both teams have similar overall profiles. BU has shot 49.0 percent inside the arc, while CSU has been making 48.2 percent of its shots in the same territory. After struggling in their opener against Northeastern, the Terriers have now made 70.4 percent of their free throws, 6.8 percentage points higher than the Vikings. According to Basketball, however, Cleveland State is a more efficient team, averaging 0.917 points per possession to Boston’s 0.847 points per possession.

The one major offensive difference between the two teams comes from outside the 3-point arc. In that swath of the court, the Terriers have been abysmal. BU’s 3-point field goal percentage as a team is 21.1 percent, 333rd in the nation per Basketball State. Of the Terriers four primary 3-point shooters thus far, Irving has emerged as the best, making 25 percent of his attempts. Senior guard Matt Griffin and Partin have both gone 5-for-21 from beyond the arc while Morris is 1-for-7. Cleveland State has been a bit better than BU, with 32.4 percent of its 3-point attempts making it in to the basket.

On the defensive side, Cleveland State has emerged as a force, primarily a result of the number of turnovers it forces teams to commit. According to Basketball State, the Vikings have forced an average of 21.7 turnovers in their first four games, making them the seventh best team in the nation. Thirty percent of Cleveland State’s opponents’ possessions end in turnovers, which Basketball State ranks as the fifth best in the country in that category. In comparison, BU has only found an average of 13.0 turnovers per game and 18.0 percent of turnovers per opponent possession so far this season.

After taking on Cleveland State on Friday, the Terriers will face Rhode Island on Sunday and Hofstra University (one of coach Jones’ former squads) on Sunday to round out the Legends Classic. The Vikings will face the same opponents as the Terriers on Saturday and Sunday, but in reverse order. BU will return to Case Gymnasium next Wednesday for its first game at home since the season opener back on Nov. 11th

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