Jan. 24, 2014
For the third time this month, the preseason Patriot League favorite Boston University men's basketball team will appear on the CBS Sports Network when it visits defending champion Bucknell Saturday afternoon with tip-off set for 2 p.m. The Terriers (13-7, 6-1) and Bison (9-9, 4-3 PL) will meet for the fifth time in six years but first as fellow conference members.
BU is 3-0 all-time on the network, making its first appearance with a home victory in 2012 against Albany. Earlier in January, the Terriers pulled out a 66-65 thriller over Lehigh and then beat Loyola Maryland, 72-58, back on Monday.
Ranked 20th in the latest CollegeInsider.com mid-major poll, BU will look to rebound from Wednesday's 30-point defeat at current Patriot League standings leader American (11-7, 7-0 PL). The Terriers shot a season-low 32.4 percent from the field, while the Eagles shot a school-record 71.4 percent to claim their eighth straight victory.
The loss snapped a six-game win streak for BU, who will now try to duplicate the success of the 1996-97 squad. That year, the Terriers were 13-0 in the America East before dropping a 32-point decision at Drexel. They went on to finish the conference schedule 17-1 and capture the conference title against Drexel en route to the NCAA tournament.
Through the seven conference games so far, sophomore point guard Maurice Watson Jr. leads the Terriers in scoring (14.4 ppg), assists (7.0 apg) and steals (1.9 spg). Both senior D.J. Irving and sophomore John Papale are averaging double figures at 10.3 and 10.1 ppg, respectively, with senior Dom Morris close behind at 9.7 ppg.
Despite the performance at American, BU is still shooting a strong 44.9 percent from the field against Patriot League teams. Besides only averaging 12 turnovers a game, the Terriers have also benefited offensively by reaching the free throw line and hitting 78 percent of its attempts, compared to opponents' 63 shooting percentage. In total, BU is averaging four more made free throws a game.
On the defensive end in the month of January, the Terriers have rebounded by committee with five men averaging at least 3.7 rpg. Sophomore Nathan Dieudonne leads the Terriers at 5.9 rpg, while Morris is averaging 4.9 rpg. BU has clamped down in league play by holding opponents to 43.3 percent shooting after non-conference opponents shot 45.0 percent.
Both the Terriers and Bucknell own a road win over a major conference opponent this season. BU triumphed at the ACC's Maryland, while the Bison opened its season victoriously at the Big 10's Penn State. Bucknell later started the conference schedule with a 3-1 record but then lost to both military academies before Wednesday's home win against Loyola Maryland.
Named to the preseason Patriot League All-Conference team alongside Irving, Bucknell's 6-foot-5 guard Cameron Ayers is averaging a team-high 13.9 ppg. 6-foot-3 guard Steven Kaspar directs the offense with 5.3 apg while also averaging 7.6 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Another 6-foot-5 guard, Chris Hass has helped the Bison off the bench averaging 15.3 ppg in conference action.
Standing 6-foot-8, center Brian Fitzpatrick served as the back-up for two-time PL Player of the Year Mike Muscala and is has stepped up this season to average 9.6 ppg and 4.2 rpg. He's helped the Bison ranked third in the conference in both scoring defense (65.8 ppg) and rebounding margin at 1.3.
Bucknell leads the all-time series, 3-2, after earning a 75-61 win at Case Gym in 2011 behind Muscala's 20-point, 11-rebound performance. In the Terriers' last trip to Sojka Pavilion in 2010, the Bison edged BU, 52-49.
Following the contest, the Terriers will return home and end their first go-around with the conference against Army at Agganis Arena on Wednesday (Jan. 29) at 7 p.m.