With spirits at the highest they have been all season long, the red-hot Boston University men’s basketball team is getting set to take on the University at Albany Wednesday night at Case Gymnasium as part of its America East farewell tour.
“Our guys know that we have a lot of respect for Albany,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “They’re well-coached and they have a very good team. They have a very good inside-outside game. They’re a tough team.”
The Terriers started off their season in a disappointing fashion, dropping their first five games, three of which were lost by three points or fewer. But they had a massive outburst, beating Coastal Carolina University 74–44 to pick up their first victory.
Since then, Jones’ team has steadily improved. At the moment, BU is riding a four-game win streak that began with a 79–72 win over the University of Maine on Feb. 5. Since then, the Terriers defeated Binghamton University, the University of Vermont and the University of New Hampshire, giving them season sweeps of three teams in conference play.
BU’s most recent win came when it hosted the University of New Hampshire. After defeating the Wildcats (7–17, 3–9 America East) during the early stages of conference play, BU was able to prevent the struggling Wildcats from pulling off an upset.
Albany (19–8, 8–5 America East), which the Terriers defeated in a close overtime match last month, has the opportunity to jump ahead in America East standings with a win Wednesday. At the moment, the Great Danes are one game behind BU in the standings. With a win, Albany can jump into second place.
In the overtime game on Jan. 23, it was BU’s starters who carried the team to victory. Freshman guard Maurice Watson Jr. led the way with 21 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Meanwhile, junior forward Dom Morris had one of his poorer games of the season, only recording five points and one rebound, as he ran into foul trouble early in the contest.
Since then, BU has seen a lot more production from players such as freshman forward Nathan Dieudonne, junior forward Travis Robinson and sophomore forward James Kennedy, who Jones said will all play key roles Wednesday.
“We’re going to need to get production out of everyone,” Jones said. “We have a pretty balanced team, so any given night someone can step up.”
Albany’s backcourt, led by seniors and leading–scorers Mike Black and Jacob Iati, will be BU’s biggest challenge. Black and Iati average 14.9 and 12.6 points a game, respectively, and rank fourth and ninth in the conference in the category.
It will be up to the defense of Watson Jr., junior guard D.J. Irving and freshman guard John Papale to keep these two from putting up big numbers against the Terriers.
The last time BU faced an offense that relied on its guards was when the team visited Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. At the time, CCU’s star guard Anthony Raffa was the second-best shooter in the country, and the Terriers were able to keep him off the board early. By the time Raffa started to make shots, it was too late, and the BU lead was too much to overcome.
If the backcourt does a similar job, it will be left up to Morris and sophomore forward Malik Thomas to grab rebounds down low and keep Albany’s tough interior — led by forward Sam Rowley’s 6.4 rebounds per game — from getting put-backs.
Jones said he understands the importance of finishing the season strong if his team wishes to see any action in the postseason.
“We are on target,” Jones said. “[But] we need to finish strong to have a chance to play a postseason.”