By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff
Going into its game against the University at Albany, the Boston University basketball team knew what it had to focus on in order to win, a strategy that could be completed with a quick look at a stat sheet – neutralize the potent Great Danes’ offense led by forward Gerardo Suero.
For the Terriers, it didn’t matter that Albany had the conference’s second highest scoring offense or that Suero entered the game as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer; if they could clamp down on both Suero and subsequently the Albany offense, they would be able to come out on top.
Ultimately, BU was able to do that – and more – as it limited Suero to a season-low six points and the Great Danes to 57 points in its 70-57 win Monday night at Agganis Arena.
“Our guys did a great job in the gameplan,” BU head coach Joe Jones said. “I thought they really understood what we were trying to do from a defensive perspective and an offensive perspective. We played like a very good team for most of the game.”
Riding the momentum of a three-game win streak, many of the key questions that faced the Terriers (8-11, 4-1) revolved around the Albany offense that was averaging 74.4 points per game entering the contest.
Even from the game’s tip-off, it was clear that it was not going to be a typical offensive performance for Albany because of BU’s defense as well as some self-inflicted wounds. The Great Danes (12-8, 4-2) scored just 25 points in the first half on 30 percent shooting. For the game, Albany players combined to shoot 30.6 percent on field goals.
The Great Danes’ 57 points were their second fewest of the season behind the 46 points they scored in a 20-point loss to George Mason University on Nov. 22.
Throughout the game for Albany, the offense was stalled, something that, according to head coach Will Brown, was a testament to BU and a slight at his own team.
“I thought they played very good team defense and this is the first game where we haven’t scored enough points to win since our George Mason game,” Brown said. “It was a combination of how well they played defensively and how poor we played offensively.
“We weren’t patient offensively, we didn’t attack the zone, which we’ve had no problem with zone all year.”
A large part of Albany’s offensive woes derived from a subpar offensive performance from Suero, who came into the game averaging 22.4 points per game.
BU sophomore point guard D.J. Irving said that the Terriers’ biggest gameplan heading into the game was to stop Suero and the team followed through on that goal, holding Suero to 1-of-10 shooting from the field for six points. Monday night marked the first time all season that Suero did not score double figures in points.
Suero, who entered the game leading the nation in free throws attempted and free throws made, scored four of his six points from the charity stripe.
For Jones and the Terriers, rendering one of the nation’s most potent scorers ineffective came from a multitude of factors, most notably compressing driving lanes even in a spread out 2-3 zone that BU employed for much of the night.
“We just did a good job of packing it in when he drove it, we took away his space, they took a few charges on him early which I think anytime a kid gets a charge or two on him that sends a message,” Jones said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s one of the most talented players in the league. He won’t have many nights where he’s 1-for-10 and I’m just happy it was tonight.”
Just over halfway through the second half and with Albany down over 20 points, Brown made the decision to take Suero out for the remainder of the game, something that Brown called “a learning experience” for his junior forward.
In Suero’s absence, the Great Danes were able to reduce their deficit to as low as 10points with about four minutes remaining in the game.
With shots not falling and suffocating defense applied for much of the game, frustration proved to be too much for Suero and for Brown, it was a sign that his star needed to sit.
“He was thoroughly frustrated for the first time since our Siena [College] game this year and he was frustrated then because they were beating the heck out of him, Brown said. “Today, he was just frustrated because he didn’t have it and it’s the first time that he hasn’t had it this year.”
With conference play continuing Thursday with a game at the University of New Hampshire, Jones hopes that his team can continue to play disciplined defense in an attempt to make another run to a conference title and the NCAA Tournament.
“I think the big thing for us is we have to bring a defensive mentality to every game,” Jones said. “If we do that, we’ll be in great shape.”