Basketball, NCAA, Sports

Terriers aim to avenge rockbottom performance

For many members of the Boston University men’s basketball team, Lundholm Gymnasium is somewhere they remember quite well, although not for the right reasons.

JUNHEE CHUNG/DFP STAFF Senior guard Darryl Partin

It was there roughly 11 months ago that the Terriers (8-11, 4-1 America East) hit what they repeatedly called the “rock bottom” of their 2010-11 season, in a 60-48 loss to the University of New Hampshire. A humiliating defeat that not only sent BU to its third loss in five games, but also dropped its overall record to 10-13.

But for that BU team, the lowest depths and setbacks proved to be the catalyst of an extraordinary run, which saw the Terriers reel off an 11-game win streak sending them to the program’s first NCAA Tournament in almost a decade.

Now, almost a full year and an entire coaching staff later, the Terriers return to Durham, N.H. for the first time since the fateful day as they are set to take on New Hampshire (6-10, 1-4 America East) Thursday.

While the road matchup against the Wildcats presents a sense of déjà vu for the Terriers due to last year’s events, it exists in another regard.

The Terriers are riding a four-game winning streak, something they accomplished earlier in the season after scoring a marquee 75-61 win over crosstown rival Boston College. After the win over the Eagles, however, BU lost seven consecutive games, sending its overall record to 4-11.

In fact, the Terriers, if anything, have thus far proven to be a streaky team under first-year head coach Joe Jones, having lost their first four games of the season only to win their next four, then lose seven straight followed up by their current four-game run.

With that in mind, BU players know they cannot afford to look too far ahead even with a favorable stretch of games awaiting them, lest they fall victim to another extended losing streak.

“We can’t get complacent with what we’ve been doing,” said sophomore forward Travis Robinson. “We’ve just got to keep going – there’s no finish line, we’ve just got to keep going strong, keep getting better, use every game to get better until we get to the conference championships and all that. We can’t have any lapses.”

Long a staple of their program’s basketball philosophy – and oft-repeated and preached under former coach Patrick Chambers – defense has played a critical role in the Terriers’ last four wins.

In its last four games, BU has limited opponents to an average of 57.25 points per game, a figure the Terriers forced despite facing two of the America East Conference’s best offensive teams in the University of Maine and the University at Albany.

The aforementioned defensive prowess was hardly more evident than in BU’s most recent win, a 70-57 victory over Albany Monday at Agganis Arena.

The Terriers forced the league’s second-ranked scoring offense to shoot 30.6 percent from the field and, perhaps more importantly, shut down Great Dane forward Gerardo Suero, who entered the game as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer at 22.4 points per game.

Even though the Terriers’ defensive record the last several games speaks for itself, it is certainly not beyond reproach to certain players on the team.

“Our defense has been playing well, but we haven’t been finishing possessions as far as rebounding,” Robinson said, “so I think we definitely need to get on the boards a lot more and just keep doing what coach Jones is asking us to do on offense.”

One thing that was not open to criticism was BU’s offensive effort in the win over the Great Danes, at least from the Terriers’ dynamic one-two punch of senior guard Darryl Partin and sophomore point guard D.J. Irving. Partin and Irving had 17 and 15 points, respectively, and accounted for 11 of the team’s 14 assists, with Irving posting a team-high six and Partin adding a career-high five.

Though Irving and Partin have been stalwarts for the Terriers this season, the offensive emergence of sophomore guard/forward Mike Terry Jr., was not so expected. Terry, who entered the game averaging just over a point per game, scored a career-high seven points and helped BU stay even with Albany for much of the first half.

“We stayed working and getting up shots,” Terry said of his performance. “When I came into the Albany game, my teammates just found me in the right place and I was able to knock down those open shots.”

In stark contrast to the high-scoring Albany team the Terriers just dispatched, New Hampshire is a more defensively-oriented team that is not as explosive on the offensive end.

True to the more deliberate, half-court style of play that has been employed throughout head coach Bill Herrion’s tenure, the Wildcats enter the game sixth in the conference in points per game with 62.9. Three players on the team – guard Alvin Abreu, guard Chandler Rhoads and forward Patrick Konan – average double figures in points per game.

They are, however, among the league’s best defensive teams, allowing an average of 64.8 points per game, good enough for third among America East squads.

Even though New Hampshire presents unique challenges, Robinson said nothing is changing for the Terriers going into the game, for good reason.

“I’m not sure what coach’s game plan is, but I would assume that we’re going to continue to play the same way we’ve been playing, focusing a lot on getting fast breaks and getting out and running,” he said.

Looking to avoid the same fate the Terriers took the last time they won four games in a row, a team that is steadily improving and hitting its stride hopes to continue the same formula making them so successful the last few weeks.

“I think we’re actually getting a lot better,” Terry said. “We still have a few issues we need to work out as far as rebounding, but we’re definitely coming together as a team — working hard, going over game plan strategies, working out everything a whole lot better. I think everything is getting along a little bit better.”

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