Event: Boston University Terriers (4-7) Vs. Bucknell Bison (7-5)
Date/Time: Thursday December 22, 2011-7 p.m.
Location:Case Gymnasium (Capacity: 1,800)-Boston, Massachusetts.
Broadcast Info: A radio broadcast of the game can be found on 1510 AM with Doug Brown and Brian Maurer bringing you all the action.
All-Time Series: This will be the fifth consecutive year these two teams have played with the series knotted up at 2-2. Last season, Bucknell captured a 52-49 victory after Terrier guard Matt Griffin missed a potential, game-tying, 3-pointer at the buzzer. Despite both team's slow starts to last season, the two programs are both defending champions of their respective conferences (America East-BU, Patriot League-Bucknell).
Last Time Out: The Terriers lost their third consecutive game 10 days ago, when they underwent a second-half collapse at Villanova. After leading the entire first half, the Terriers failed to keep the momentum going, as Villanova went on a 19-1 run two minutes into the second half, to put the game out of reach. Boston University's leading scorer Darryl Partin had an off-night, with just six points on 2-15 shooting, as the Terriers fell 68-43.
Playing against the number one team in the country Monday, Bucknell fell 80-61 to Syracuse, after an abysmal first half. The Bison's play picked up in the second half and they cut the home team's deficit to as few as 13 on several occassions, but never were really in the game. Junior center Mike Muscala led the team with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Storylines: Boston University will face their eight team coming off a playoff appearances in 11 games, as the Terriers try to right the ship after a three-game losing streak before finals period. After being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round last season, both defending champions are looking for a big victory to prove their worth.
For Boston University, Bucknell is the first of three non-conference games the team has before America East play. While a sub .500 record entering league play certainly won't hurt the team's chances, the Terriers and Partin were playing some of their least inspired basketball over the team's past two games. A win over Bucknell, would be one the team's three best wins on the season and give them some momentum going into difficult games at LaSalle and Quinnipiac.
While the Terriers have seen great contribution from several players this year, the offense has focused around Partin. After reaching as high as second in the nation in scoring, the senior transfer has fallen to 12th, at 21.2 ppg, after scoring just 18 points in the past two games. Partin struggled from the field in both games and has been forcing shots as of late.
The Bison have been perfect at home this season (5-0) with big wins over Richmond and Princeton, but are just 2-5 on the road. If the Bison are going to repeat as champions, they're going to have to prove they can win on the road, with stiff competition in the Patriot League this year coming from American, Lehigh and Holy Cross.
Patriot League Player of the Year Mike Muscala has been almost good as last year, posting 13.1 ppg, nine rebounds and hitting just under 45 percent of his shots. The 6'11" junior should give the Terriers serious problems down low with his length and size; as the Terriers strongest interior defender (Patrick Hazel) is just 6'6". Three other Bucknell starters are averaging double-digit scoring, including sophomore sharp-shooter Cameron Ayers, who has hit over half of his attempts from behind the arc.
Players to Watch: D.J. Irving draws strong reviews from anyone who watches him and hasn't shown any drop-off over the team's three-game losing streak. The point guard fills up the stat sheet and has lightning quick speed that few players in the nation can keep up with. If Boston University is going to have any success this season, it will start with Irving; if he can be more aggressive attacking the basket and looking for his own shot, the rest of the team will benefit. Irving will need to start that trend against a Bison group that is more mature and better on paper than the Terriers right now.
Muscala is one of the most unique and dangerous big men that the Terriers will face all season. Unlike Villanova Mo Yarou or St. Joe's C.J. Aiken, Muscala has the range to hit jump shots from behind the 3-point arc, all while having refined post moves in the paint. With his size and versatility, he will be a nightmare for the Terriers defense. When the Boston University defense is forced to converge on him in the paint, it should give his teammates plenty of open looks. Add in his ability to block shots and Muscala is a dual threat that the Terriers will need to get in foul trouble, if they have a shot to win.
Prediction: Finals period can be treated almost like a bye week in the NFL, except for the fact that players have to spend all of their extra time on studying, rather than traveling and games. Nonetheless, it's interesting to see how a program/roster responds to the coaching and rest that's provided for them. Over the past three years, the Terriers are 2-1 in their first game out of exams. That figures including a win last year against St. Joe's, after the team entered break playing awful basketball. I think you'll see a much stronger performance from Boston University Wednesday night and the team will play a full 40 minutes for the first time in a long time.
Bucknell 67, Boston University 64