When the Boston University men’s basketball team faced the University of Vermont in mid-January, it was just getting used to the new look of its team. Junior Corey Lowe was still re-establishing his role as point guard, and the players were continuing to learn the intricacies of a zone defense after playing man-to-man for the first half of the schedule.
The Terriers lost that game, 70-56, but following the defeat, BU went on the longest winning streak of any America East team this season – eight games. During the stretch, the team compiled a decorated list of varying achievements that included winning close games, scoring blowout road victories and battling fatigue given their short bench.
Wednesday night at Patrick Gymnasium in a 75-47 loss against Vermont, not only did BU’s eight-game winning streak end (the school’s longest since the 2004-05 season), but so did a number of the positive things the Terriers’ offense and defense had been doing over the course of their run.
With first place in the conference on the line ‘-‘- a situation every member of BU’s roster (save senior forward Matt Wolff) was facing for the first time in their careers – the Terriers seemingly reverted to their ‘old ways’ and dropped into a tie for second place with Binghamton University (their opponent on Saturday).
Turnovers were the main reason the Terriers (14-10, 9-3 AE) lost in blowout fashion, as they coughed the ball up 21 times – leading to 33 points by UVM – and tallied just five assists. Over the course of the win streak, BU held a plus-1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio and had turned the ball over 17 times in its previous two victories combined.
‘We did a poor job holding onto the ball and gave them numerous runout baskets. As we continued to do that to ourselves, we lost our composure,’ BU coach Dennis Wolff said.
In the first game against Vermont (19-7, 10-3), BU turned the ball over 14 times, but UVM’s incredibly active defense and variety of presses visibly bothered every Terrier even more last night than they did at Agganis Arena.
Included in the group of Terriers who struggled handling the ball are Lowe (who had six turnovers – five in the first half), Wolff (five turnovers) and freshman forward Jake O’Brien (four turnovers). Lowe had done a solid job of holding onto the ball prior to Wednesday night, but he appeared fairly uncomfortable being forced to the sidelines while brining the ball up the court and committed a few ugly turnovers on the perimeter.
By comparison, UVM finished with 23 assists and 13 turnovers, including a game-high seven dimes by the Catamounts’ leading scorer, senior guard Mike Trimboli (17 points).
Much like the previous meeting against the Catamounts, BU accumulated a 10-point lead with 11:35 remaining in the first half. They then relinquished that lead and trailed by four points at the break (36-32).
Both teams performed efficiently from the field in the first half, as both shot above 50 percent (40 percent from beyond the arc). Lowe, who finished with a game-high 20 points, netted 11 of them in the first half, while sophomore forward John Holland scored 12 of his 14 in the first 20 minutes.
Holland was extremely active on the offensive glass (six of his eight rebounds were on the attack) and completed what could be the highlight-reel dunk of his career in the first half. The dunk was awarded the top spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. After receiving an outlet pass from Brittain to the right of the lane, Holland took two steps, leapt and threw it down right-handed over Vermont’s Evan Fjeld, who fell to the ground attempting to draw a charge.
For the second time in three games, however, Holland was absolutely shut down in the second half, as he scored only two points and was visibly frustrated at the end of the game, so much so that Wolff took him out with 3:37 left.
‘It was reminiscent of the first game, where it’s an eight-point game with 10 minutes to go, and then we make mistakes and let it fall in on ourselves,’ Wolff said.
It wasn’t just Holland who struggled in the second half, as BU’s shooting percentage dropped to 26.1 percent (6-of-23). In two second halves of basketball against the Catamounts, the Terriers have been outscored by UVM 81-39, as the Catamounts outscored BU 39-15 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
‘We were pressured and we didn’t stay with the fundamentals to be able to run good offense. I thought we were rushed, we were sloppy with outlets and we were trying to push things when there were misses when they weren’t there,’ Wolff said.
The Catamounts’ active defense was overly aggressive and was able to sidetrack the second-hottest offense in the league, which entered the contest averaging 70.3 points per game. The first? Well, they shot 58.3 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from beyond the arc, which led to five scorers finishing the night in double figures, including junior forward Marqus Blakely, who recorded a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds).
With 14:32 remaining in the second half, the game started to swing in Vermont’s favor when Wolff picked up his fourth personal foul. Wolff is one of BU’s most active defenders, and losing him for senior guard Marques Johnson hurt the Terriers on the defensive end.
Following Johnson’s entrance into the game, he was sprung for what seemed to be a breakaway layup on a long outlet pass, but Blakely hustled back and blocked the shot. In transition, Trimboli hit one of his four 3-pointers to put UVM up nine (48-39).
Despite the unimpressive performance against Vermont, the Terriers are still in the midst of playing their best basketball in three years and will again be tested against one of the conferences’ best Saturday.
While they no longer control their own destiny, the Terriers are still in a much better position than many imagined they’d be at the start of conference play. And with five games remaining, the Terriers are still well within reach of recording their first winning season in three years.
‘We’ll have to put this behind us again, and we’ll have to do everything we can to not allow this game to affect Saturday,’ Wolff said.
BU shot a paltry 5-of-13 from the free-throw line. Lowe continued to struggle from the charity stripe, going 2-of-6, while junior forward Scott Brittain ended his consecutive made free throw streak at 19. He made his first two freebies to extend the streak, but missed his next three. ‘hellip; O’Brien became the first player all season to win a tip-off against Blakely. ‘hellip; UVM outscored the Terriers 20-0 in bench points. ‘hellip; Vermont has won six of its last seven against BU.