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Army poses big threat for BU’s Patriot League playoff seed

With two games remaining in the regular season, the stakes are high as the Boston University men’s basketball team clings to its first-place spot in the Patriot League while preparing to play in the Patriot League Tournament next week.

Last Sunday, the Terriers (20-9, 13-3 Patriot League) hosted Bucknell University on Senior Day at Agganis Arena.  It was a bitter day for the Terriers and their three seniors, as BU gave up a nine-point second-half lead and found itself on the wrong end of the 63-53 final score.

Wednesday night, BU has to take on another tough opponent as it travels down to West Point, N.Y., to take on the U.S. Military Academy.

“It’s going to be like every game we’ve had this year,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “It’s going to be highly-contested. Both teams are going to play extremely hard and do what they think they need to do to win.”

The last time the Black Knights (13-14, 9-7 Patriot League) and Terriers faced off, BU held a 22-point lead with 16:48 remaining in the game.  Led by senior guard D.J. Irving, who had one of his best performances of the year with 22 points, the Terriers were on course to run away with a victory over Army.

In the ensuing minutes, however, BU saw its lead slowly slip away. As the clock struck zero, D.J. Irving — who had just missed a contested fade away jumper from the free-throw line — picked himself up and prepared for another five minutes of basketball.

Midway through the overtime period, Army picked up its first lead of the game, jumping ahead of the Terriers by a point.  In the remaining minute-and-a-half, the Terriers were able to clamp down defensively and force turnovers, which led to multiple free-throw attempts to give BU the 86-81 victory.

If this previous meeting is any indication, the Black Knights will likely put up a strong fight throughout the contest.  Should the Patriot League Tournament begin today, Army would have the No. 5 seed in the playoffs and be forced to travel to No. 4 seed Bucknell (14-13, 9-7 Patriot League).  Until the seeding and standings are decided, though, both teams will be fighting to get home-court advantage for the quarterfinal round of the tournament and will look to close out the season with a few victories.

Meanwhile, the Terriers are looking to get back on track and pick up some momentum for a potential run at their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2010-11 season.

D.J. Irving, who was battling the flu before Sunday’s loss, will be in much better shape than he was just a few days ago.  However, another player the Terriers need to be at his best over the next few weeks is senior forward Dom Morris.

Morris started off the year red hot, scoring in double figures in the first three games of the season. He seemed poised to continue, and possibly improve upon, his impressive performance during his junior season last year.  Unfortunately for the Terriers, he has been inconsistent the past few games. In BU’s game against American University, the forward put in 16 points and seven rebounds in the win. The next game, though, he only scored six points.

The Terriers could certainly benefit from improved play from the senior as BU goes into a high-pressure tournament setting where any game could be the last game.

Despite clinching home-court advantage through the semifinals, the next two games are crucial for the Terriers as they pursue its first Patriot League title in March.  With the conference tournament looming, Jones said he is taking it one game at a time, keeping his focus on Wednesday’s contest against Army.

“I am confident that my guys will be ready to go tomorrow,” Jones said.

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