By René Reyes/DFP Staff
HAMDEN, Conn. – For Patrick Hazel, Dom Morris and Jeff Pelage, the task in front of them was a daunting one.
Protecting the glass against Quinnipiac University, which entered Saturday’s matinee ranked second in the nation in both total rebounds (44.8) and offensive rebounds (17.6) per game, would be the most arduous challenge yet for these bruising Boston University men’s basketball players.
For at least the first half of yesterday's 59-53 loss, Hazel, Morris and Pelage proved they could stand their ground against the opposing frontline. By halftime, BU held an 18-17 advantage in rebounds and had yielded five offensive boards. To no surprise, the Terriers jumped out to the 32-19 cushion after the first 20 minutes of regulation, due in large part to their edge in the battle of the boards.
BU was rung up on defense to the tune of 41 second-half points, but its sixth straight defeat did little to overshadow the gritty effort turned in by its bigs, who were all over the glass, drew charges, pounded the ball inside without hesitation and limited Quinnipiac's second leading scorer Ike Azotam to just four points – his second-lowest output of the season.
“I thought for the most part, we did a good job," said BU coach Joe Jones. "I thought the second half, they took control of the half, but for the most part, I was happy with their play."
Although BU eventually lost the rebounding battle by a slim 43-38 margin, its trio of Hazel, Morris and Pelage refused to get bullied in the paint on both ends of the floor, and combined for 14 points and 19 rebounds.
Hazel had a subpar offensive game, shooting 2-of-10 from the field, but he made up for his lack of offensive production with three offensive and defensive rebounds apiece. Morris snared six defensive boards and showed off his repertoire with a nifty post move on his only bucket in the second half. In his first start of the year, Pelage was an unexpected bright spot, contributing five points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.
Bobcats coach Tom Moore was extremely impressed by the Terriers’ big men, especially by their physical strength to push his players off screens and maintain advantageous positioning in box-out situations under the basket. His squad managed 16 offensive boards for the contest, but they didn’t come easy.
“I don’t know what Pelage and Hazel and Morris’ numbers were, but Coach Jones got those guys to really understand that Quinnipiac is a good offensive rebounding team,” Moore said. “We had 16, and we have never had to work harder than the 16 we got today. I thought that was a great effort by BU.”
Quinnipiac forward Ousmane Drame, who finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds and went toe-to-toe multiple times down low with either Hazel, Morris or Pelage, knew full well of what BU's frontcourt was capable of.
“They warned us about this before the game,” Drame said. “They told us they were going to come into the gym, ready to play, fired up. They scouted us pretty well because I couldn’t even get a good shot off today.”
No Malik sighting
A foot injury suffered in the preseason against Rider University sidelined Malik Thomas for the first seven games of the season. His coming-out party came in the form of an eight-point, two-block showing in just 10 minutes of action in a 76-52 defeat to Harvard University on Dec. 10.
The redshirt freshman out of Harlem, N.Y., followed that up with career highs of 17 points and eight rebounds at La Salle University this past Thursday, and began emerging as a consistent scorer for BU in place of injured star guard D.J. Irving (concussion).
Yet he didn’t see any more playing time after he was subbed out at the eight-minute mark of the second half Saturday with the Terriers nursing a single-digit lead and in need of an offensive boost.
Thomas' inexperience at the NCAA level, having only six collegiate games under his belt entering the matchup with Quinnipiac, forced Jones to keep the 19-year-old relegated to the bench and stick with his veteran players in crunch time.
“He’s still learning,” Jones said. “I understand he had [17 points] in the last game, but he’s still learning. There were a lot of other reasons why it’s hard to play a kid that’s really young and still learning because you end up giving up an offensive rebound. We couldn’t afford to give up an offensive rebound, missing a defensive assignment, execution.
“A lot of times, the older guys are just more capable of understanding those things.”
Terry Jr. a pleasant surprise
Sophomore Mike Terry Jr. played sparingly early on in the Joe Jones Era, and during BU’s four-game winning streak from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3, he totaled a mere 19 minutes on the court.
He usually checks in at point guard near the end of first halves for mop-up duty, giving Irving or senior Matt Griffin breathers when they need them. But Terry Jr., the guard from Philadelphia, Pa., was rewarded for his recent hard work at practice and earned his first start of the season at La Salle. He struggled as the Terriers’ primary ball handler, though, and committed three turnovers in 10 minutes.
In Saturday’s low-scoring affair at Quinnipiac, Terry Jr.’s afternoon couldn’t have gotten off to a worst start. As he was bringing the ball up court in the first half, he was stripped by guard Garvey Young at 9:09 and picked up a foul two seconds later when he slapped Young on the arm. Jones immediately yanked him from the game and put in Griffin. Garvey went 1-of-2 from the free throw line.
Yet down the stretch, Jones called on Terry Jr. to fill in for sophomore forward Travis Robinson (fouled out), and the 6-foot lefty responded valiantly. With less than two minutes remaining in the contest, he snagged a rebound, recorded a steal and tallied five points. His step-back 3-pointer from the left wing closed the gap to 55-53 at the 19:48 mark and provided at least a glimmer of hope for BU.
“He’s a guy we gotta look at,” Jones said. “At the end of the game, we wanted to play smaller. Travis was out, so he was the guy that I thought could come in and help.”
Just your father’s Terriers
Back on Dec. 29, 2010, prolific scorer John Holland, who was spotted in the stands at the TD Bank Sports Center Saturday rooting for his alma mater, contributed a 31-point, nine-rebound performance for BU in a losing effort to Quinnipiac at Case Gymnasium.
When asked how the 2011-12 Terriers differ from last year’s squad, one that featured Holland and made an appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Moore offered a contradictory response after his Bobcats team won its third straight game.
Despite Holland’s graduation, Irving’s absence and former coach Patrick Chambers’ departure from the BU program in June, Moore still sees many similarities between the two ball clubs.
“I think they’re very similar to be honest with you,” Moore said. “Last year’s BU team might have had a little bit more depth, especially the part of the season when [then-junior co-captain] Jake O’Brien was in there. They were a really deep and talented team. But I think it’s very similar. They’re talented. Coach Jones has done a great job getting them to play hard.”