Feb. 18, 2014
With first place in the Patriot League standings on the line, the Boston University men's basketball team will host American on Wednesday night at Agganis Arena with action slated to begin at 7 p.m. Ranked No. 24 in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll, the Terriers (19-8, 12-2 PL) are currently one-game ahead of the Eagles (15-10, 11-3 PL) with Holy Cross lurking behind at 10-4.
Both BU and American clinched top-four seeds this past weekend for the upcoming conference tournament and are now looking to gain home court advantage for every round. The Eagles won the first meeting back in January and would claim the tiebreaker if they defeated the Terriers again on Wednesday.
The Terriers enter the contest with a four-game win streak, highlighted by an 88-54 victory over a Lafayette squad that just beat the Eagles this past weekend, 74-62. Coming off an 87-72 win at Loyola Maryland, BU features the No. 2 scoring offense in the league at 72.2 ppg and has eight men averaging at least five points per game.
Sophomore Maurice Watson Jr. leads the offense in scoring at 13.6 ppg and in assists at 6.7 apg. His 181 assists currently rank seventh in both the Patriot League and BU record books. He was just two helpers away from his third double-double of the season on Saturday, as freshman Cedric Hankerson and sophomore John Papale finished with a career-high 20 points apiece.
Following their performance, BU now has five men who have reached at least 20 points in a game this season, demonstrating the team's depth and ability to overcome foul trouble. Coming off the bench, Hankerson is shooting 47.0 percent from the field in conference play, while the starter Papale is at a stifling 55.6 percent. Senior D.J. Irving has reached double figures in eight of the last nine games with senior Dom Morris, sophomore Justin Alston and junior Malik Thomas all reaching the mark in the past two weeks to help carry the offense.
On the defensive end, BU ranks second in the conference in rebounds at 34.1 rpg with Morris leading the charge at 6.4 rpg. Sophomore Nathan Dieudonne
is close behind at 5.2 rpg. The Terriers have held their last four opponents to 41.5 percent shooting and have earned an average positive turnover margin of +5.0 per game behind a combined 34 steals. Six players have posted at least three steals apiece with Watson owning a total of eight to move into ninth place at BU for steals in a season.
Though the Eagles have dropped three of their last four games, they will still have plenty of confidence after handing BU back in January its most lopsided conference loss (86-56) since 1997. The Terriers started well with a 13-2 lead, but American shot 71.4 percent from the field and held BU to 32.0 percent.
American ranks third nationally in field goal shooting percentage at 50.4. Jesse Reed leads in scoring at 14.0 ppg and went 8-of-9 against BU for a game-high 20 points. Darius Gardner (11.7 ppg) went 5-of-6 from behind the arc to finish with 18 points, while Tony Wroblicky (12.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg) recorded 17 points. He added six boards to help the Eagles out-rebound BU, 31-21.
The Eagles opened conference play 10-0 before dropping tough decisions to Loyola Maryland (62-58), Colgate (63-60) and Lafayette (74-62). They claimed their 11th victory last Wednesday with a 64-44 win against Lehigh, who defeated the Terriers in overtime, 82-80, back on Feb. 1.
After the match-up, BU will host Bucknell on Sunday (Feb. 23) at 12 p.m. Prior to tip-off, the Terriers will recognize seniors D.J. Irving, Dom Morris and Travis Robinson.