Nearly a year ago, the Boston University men’s basketball team entered Lavietes Pavilion in Allston looking to knock off Harvard University. Like many of the Terriers’ games to begin the last two seasons, they were locked in a tight contest, with the game coming down to then-junior guard D.J. Irving.
Despite Irving’s 24 points, the Terriers ultimately fell to the Crimson in heartbreaking fashion, as sophomore Siyani Chambers hit a game-winning shot with five seconds remaining to propel Harvard to a 65-64 win. Falling to 3-6 at that point in the 2012-13 season, it was the Terriers’ fourth loss decided by less than three points.
This year, the Terriers (6-2) will be hoping for a better outcome against the Crimson (7-1) Saturday afternoon at Case Gym. Unlike last season, the Terriers have been on the winning end of several close games, including a thrilling 69-66 victory over Quinnipiac University Monday night.
So far this year, Massachusetts college basketball teams have boasted excellent backcourts. This was seen in the Terriers’ first game against Northeastern University on Nov. 10, as sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr. and Irving battled against guards Quincy Ford and David Walker.
Saturday will be no different as the Terriers prepare for the talented combination of sophomore Siyani Chambers and junior Wesley Saunders.
“I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got to defend,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “We need to make stops. If we’re defending and rebounding at a good rate, that gives us the best opportunity to have success, any night.”
Last season, Chambers led the offensive effort for the Crimson against BU, scoring 21 points, shooting 50 percent (3-for-6) from beyond the arc, dishing out five assists and picked up three steals.
Chambers, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2012-13, is currently fourth on the team in scoring with 9.6 points per game while leading the Crimson with 4.6 assists per game.
Perhaps the biggest challenge BU will face is Saunders, the 2012-13 Ivy League scoring champion. The 6-foot-5 forward-guard hybrid will be a tough man to cover for BU’s guards, and his innate ability to get to the basket and finish will be something that Jones said the team is going to focus on stopping.
“I think he’s going to score some points, he’s a very versatile player,” Jones said. “We just hope to contain him and make him work for everything he gets.”
The biggest thing the Terriers will need to focus on is execution. Harvard will prove to be a tough test for the Terriers, as Harvard has averaged 75 points per game while holding opponents to just 58.1 points so far this season.
BU will need to work on making open shots, and a player that has been struggling to do so for the Terriers as of late is sophomore guard John Papale.
Papale, one of the top 3-point shooters on the BU squad last season, has shot just 2-for-12 in his last two games, while going 0-of-6 from beyond the arc during that stretch. As a result, he is now shooting 23 percent from 3-point range this season.
When BU was in a bind against Northeastern University to start the season, it was Papale’s sharpshooting (13 points, two 3-pointers) that kept the Terriers in the game, helping them defeat the Huskies for the first time in four years.
“I’m not overly concerned about him making shots or not, it just rolls that way sometimes,” Jones said. “Everyone goes through a cold streak, he’s going through a bit of a cold streak, but I know he’s going to come back around.”