With just six games left in the regular season before the Patriot League tournament, each game becomes more important for the Boston University men’s basketball team. During this final stretch, the Terriers will try to secure home-court advantage throughout the tournament, starting with Wednesday’s matchup against Colgate University.
Heading into Wednesday, BU (17-8, 10-2 Patriot League) sits tied for first in the conference with American University, which has lost two straight contests, allowing the Terriers to move back up the standings. The Terriers will have to go out on the road for two games this week, taking on Colgate (9-14, 3-9 Patriot League)and Loyola University–Maryland, two teams that defeated the Eagles (14-9, 10-2 Patriot League).
Last month, the Terriers hosted Colgate at Agganis Arena, and riding a 20-point performance from sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr., the team pulled out a 66-58 victory over the Raiders.
The biggest concern this time around for the Terriers will be how their perimeter defense matches up with the Raiders. While Colgate has some size in the frontcourt with 6-foot-11 center Ethan Jacobs, it is forward Murphy Burnatowski that could cause problems for BU.
The forward is a talented sharpshooter who was dominant against the Terriers in their last meeting. Shooting 11-for-20 from the field and an impressive 5-of-10 from beyond the arc, Burnatowski was the main source of Colgate’s offense, tallying 27 points in 32 minutes of playing time.
“He’s a very good player,” said BU coach Joe Jones about the Ontario native. “I don’t think he is a guy you can stop, so we want to try and make things more difficult for him and take away space. We might look to post him up more since he didn’t really post up too much last game.”
Overall, the Raiders rank second in the Patriot League in team field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage.
Colgate’s guards are also careful with the basketball, as the team ranks first in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. Guards Austin Tilloston and Luke Roh rank second and fifth, respectively, in that individual category in the conference.
While Colgate currently sits near the bottom of the league standings, the Raiders are fresh off a victory over the top-ranked Eagles, and will be looking to knock off yet another top Patriot League team.
The key for the Terriers, as has been all season, will be sustained focus and execution. Prior to this weekend, this was a major issue for Jones and his team as they struggled to hold large second half leads. The team found itself in high-pressure late game moments that could have been avoided.
“Right now we just have to take it one game, one possession at a time, improve defensively, make less mistakes, have more focus and be consistent, which I think we did a good job of against Lafayette,” Jones said.
This past weekend, BU showed it could close out a game that it led at halftime when the Terriers defeated Lafayette College by 34 points, 88-54. Entering the second half, the Terriers held a sizeable 19-point lead, and rather than taking their foot off the gas, the Terriers built upon their lead in the second half.
As the game entered the home stretch, where it was evident BU was going to be victorious, Jones turned up the pressure for his team. He switched to a press defense and required more hustle from his players to help further secure the lead and snap the bad second-half rut the Terriers had been in for several games.
The team continued a balanced offensive attack in the second frame, and got tremendous performances from senior guard D.J. Irving and sophomore forward Justin Alston. Irving finished with 16 points, going 7-for-14 from the field, to go along with five assists.
Alston, who has primarily played off of the bench this season, came through with a career game, rattling off a game-high 17 points, while recording a steal and one block.
The strong effort throughout the contest against Lafayette is something Jones said is important to the team as it moves forward to postseason play.
“Overall, we want to show balance and consistency in what we’re doing,” Jones said. That’s the key thing, it also is what makes us really good.”