In its last few games, the Boston University men’s basketball team has demonstrated an ability to go toe-to-toe with its opponents on the glass, despite being undersized in most of its matchups.
Relative to the rest of the Patriot League, the Terriers (15-8, 8-2 Patriot League), are an average rebounding team, ranking fifth in the conference with a rebounding margin of minus 1.3 rebounds per game.
In the past few games, however, BU has excelled in that area. Although it lost to Lehigh University this past Saturday, BU topped the Mountain Hawks (12-11, 5-5 Patriot League) 38-34 in rebounding. In their Jan. 29 victory over the U.S. Military Academy, the Terriers outrebounded the Black Knights (11-10, 7-3 Patriot League) 43-40.
In its last three games combined, the Terriers have outrebounded their opponents 124-114.
“During the preseason we were playing some teams that were bigger than us,” said coach Joe Jones. “But now we’re able to use our athletic ability and get the balls quicker. I’d like to see us continue to improve in that way.”
Two major contributors to this effort have been senior forward Dom Morris and sophomore forward Nathan Dieudonne. Both stand at only 6-foot-7, so the forward pair is often outsized in the paint. In the last game, for example, Lehigh’s starting forwards, Jesse Chuku and Tim Kempton stood 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10, respectively.
Those two only managed to grab 10 combined rebounds, however, whereas the partnership of Morris and Dieudonne pulled down 15.
For the season, Morris averages 6.7 rebounds per game, which ranks fourth in the conference. Dieudonne’s 5.2 rebounds per contest are good for 11th in the Patriot League.
Freshman guard Cedric Hankerson may only be in his first year, and he may only be coming off of the bench, but the Miami native has quickly become one of BU’s most important role players.
Hankerson had his best game as a Terrier during the Black Knights’ visit to Agganis Arena. He scored 19 points in only 17 minutes of play, which included a 5-for-6 shooting display from 3-point range. Although his time on the floor was limited due to foul trouble, the freshman was able to make a number of plays defensively, fighting for three steals and grabbing four rebounds.
In the game against Lehigh, Hankerson continued his shooting success. The 6-foot-5 guard shot 3-for-5 from long range for nine points and may have put up more had he not sustained an ankle injury midway through the contest.
“He’s such a great kid — he’s always trying to do what’s right,” Jones said. “He’s been very patient. He’s just trying to do what’s right to help his teammates win. At times he’s been unselfish, kind of waiting his turn.
“But there have been games, like the other night where he’s really stepped up. Sometimes it takes freshmen a little longer to hit their stride, but he seems to be hitting his stride right now.”
Terriers struggle with leads
Although the Terriers have won two of their last three games, neither of those wins was comfortable.
On the road against Bucknell University, BU held a 20-point lead with eight minutes remaining before the Bison (10-11, 5-5 Patriot League) went on a 28-9 run that cut the Terriers’ advantage.
In the game against Army, the score at halftime was 37-18 in BU’s favor. The Black Knights, however, outscored the Terriers 54-35 in the second half to send the game into overtime.
While BU was victorious on both occasions, it was not so fortunate against Lehigh. The Terriers led 41-26 at halftime, but the Mountain Hawks scored 47 points in the second half before eventually winning the battle in overtime.
“We’ve been trying to concentrate on keeping our intensity up and our focus,” Jones said. “We really lose our concentration more when we’re playing well. We tend to take things for granted, we lose focus and don’t work as hard.
“We have to do a better job of maintaining our focus when we’re playing well … When you do that against teams in this league, they have the ability to come back and beat you. We have to look at ourselves and figure this thing out.”