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Monday night's contest between the Boston University Terriers and Albany Great Danes was supposed to be highlighted by the matchup of the top two scorers and top two point guards in the league facing off. Instead, the Terriers (8-11, 4-1 America East) took away most of the intrigue, by shutting down the Great Danes (12-8, 4-2 AE) top scorer and nearly knocking Albany out of the game early, in their 70-57 victory at Agganis Arena.
While Darryl Partin (the Terriers leading scorer and second leading scorer in America East) easily recorded 15 points and added five assists and five rebounds, it was his backcourt mate who carried Boston University. Sophomore point guard D.J. Irving continued his strong play with a team-high 17 points to go along with six assists and three steals. The Terriers fastest player also knocked down 8-of-10 free throws to ice the game and could not be stopped in transition.
"D.J. Irving is their best player, he's terrific...," Albany head coach Will Brown said. "I thought the reason B.U. is 7-11 is because of D.J. Irving with the concussion, D.J. Irving sitting out and getting into the flow. I think they're at their best when the ball is in his hands and they're getting guys shots. He's terrific off the ball screen, I think what happens is, he demands so much attention off that ball screen that he makes a guy like [Patrick] Hazel and [Dom] Morris better, because all they have to do is roll hard to the rim."
Both Hazel and Morris were the recipients of several good looks down low, with the pair combining for 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Sophomore wing Travis Robinson added seven points and five rebounds of his own and defensive specialist Mike Terry Jr. added seven points off the bench in the first half to give the Terriers the lead.
"I thought we played like a very good team for most of the game," Terriers head coach Joe Jones said. "Some of the decisions here and there weren't great, but all and all I was very pleased."
On the other side, America East's leading scorer Gerardo Suero had his worst performance of the year. The junior college transfer finished with six points, the first time he hasn't reached double-digits this season. Suero hit just 1-of-10 shots, all coming in the first half, and turned the ball over eight times in 25 minutes of play.
"We just did a good job of packing it in; when he drove it, we did a good job of taking away his space and took a few charges on him early," Jones said. "I think anytime a guy takes on or two charges on him, especially on the road, it sends a message. He's a heck of a player, he's one of the most talented players in the league, he won't have many nights where he's 1-for-10."
Brown sat Suero for the final 11:54, as part of what he called a "learning moment."
"He's the best player in the league offensively, if anyone just saw him for the first time tonight, you know I've been waiting for one of those games. I'm glad I had to wait until tonight. He got frustrated, a combination of BU doing a really good job on him and him getting frustrated. He just wasn't there today."
With Suero not providing offense, the other two members of the Great Danes three-headed backcourt had to carry the load. Junior Logan Aronhalt finished with a game-high 20 points but hit just 7-of-21 shots, as he struggled to shoot over the Terrier 2-3 zone. Point guard Mile Black added 13 points and six assists in 38 minutes but it wasn't enough to overcome a Terriers team that prides themselves on their own backcourt.
"As competitors you always want to take the challenge of going up against the best players in the conference and we just wanted to take that challenge and win," Irving said.
A big difference in the game was shooting. Boston University hit 51.1 percent (24-47) of their shots for the game, including 9-of-18 three-point attempts. The Great Danes couldn't get anything going without Suero and hit just 30.6 percent (19-62) of their shots and threw up 28 3-point attempts, hitting just nine of them. With the two teams shooting at opposite ends of the spectrum, it only took a couple of quick spurts from Boston University to put the game away.
"I thought the last run of the first half and the first run of the second half that they made: game over," Brown said. "Our kids did a great job of competing for the last ten minutes...BU did what they were supposed to do at home."
In the span, the Terriers went on a 25-7 run over 10 minutes to grab a 51-30 lead and the deficit would never reach single digits.
Albany had held an early lead in the first half after a 14-0 run over six minutes but couldn't keep the momenentim going. After Albany grabbed a shortlived 21-17 lead, the Terriers quickly took the lead back behind Terry's quick seven point outburst. A 3-pointer from Partin with 19 seconds left gave the Terriers their largest lead of the half at 32-25 and ended the stanza on a 12-4 Terrier run.
Things would get much worse for Suero and his teammates, as Partin hit another three out of the break and Boston University scored 16 of the first 21 points. By the 10:33 mark of the second half, the Terriers held a 53-30 lead and the Great Danes had hit just one basket (an Aronhalt three).
Albany would fight back and cut the deficit to 10 at four different junctures but consistently failed to get a defense stop or hit a key shot when they needed it. In the end, Irving hit five of his six free throw attempts in the final 90 seconds to put the game away and give the Terriers their fourth straight win.
If their is reason for concern for the Terriers, it was the Great Danes dominance inside. Albany grabbed nine more rebounds (40-31), 18 offensive rebounds and outscored Boston University 20-2 on second-chance points. John Puk was a big part of that for the Great Danes with five points and eight rebounds.
Boston University will take their winning streak on the road when they play UMBC on Wednesday at 7 p.m. EDT.
For six long minutes in the first half the Albany defense held Boston University scoreless as Albany built a lead, the Terriers returned the favor for the next 28 minutes. Boston University (8-11, 4-1) hit 51 percent (24-47) and held the Great Danes (12-8, 4-2) to 31.1 percent shooting as they knocked off their third consecutive title contender in the America East Conference by a 70-57 score.
Sophomore point guard D.J. Irving followed up a stellar week with a team-high 17 points and six assists. Leading scorer Darryl Partin chipped in 15 points, five assists and five rebounds, as the Terriers earned their 14th straight win at home.
After falling behind 16-10 on a 14-0 Great Danes run, the Terriers used a series of spurts of their own to open up the game. A 14-2 run of their own early in the second half opened up a 20 point lead and Albany would never get closer than eight points.
In a half full of runs, the Terriers survived a six-minute scoreless streak to come away with a 32 to 25 lead over the Albany Great Danes.
Defensive specialist Mike Terry Jr. leads all players with seven points on 3-of-3 shooting, in just seven minutes for the Terriers. Senior forward Patrick Hazel and America East Co-Player of the Week D.J. Irving added six points.
The top scorers for both teams struggled in the first half with neither player recording their first basket of the half until the 4:52 mark. Gerardo Suero, the nation's fourth highest scorer, hit just 1-of-10 attempts for Albany in the first half and turned the ball over four times. He finished with four points and three assists. On the other side, Darryl Partin finished with five points on 2-of-7 shooting but did add four assists in the stanza.
Boston University jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the first six minutes of the half before going ice cold. The Great Danes were able to go on a 14-0 run to grab their first lead, when Boston University missed seven straight shots and failed to scored for 6:15 seconds midway through the half. Then the Terriers went on a series of runs of their own. The Terriers went on two spurts of five or more consecutive points to grab their seven-point advantage at the half.
Despite Boston University shooting markedly better from the field, Albany has stayed in the game because of their dominance in the paint. The Great Danes grabbed 26 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards, compared to just 12 for the Terriers.
Irving earned his second career Player of the Week Award for the Terriers by leading them to a perfect 2-0 week. In Wednesday's win over Maine, Irving earned Boston University's first double-double involving points and assists since 1998 and the first of his career. The sophomore guard had the best game of his career finishing with 23 points, 11 assists and just two turnovers in a huge road win at Maine. Against Stony Brook, he added 11 points and five assists and sparked the team's opening 14-2 run. For the week, Irving averaged 17 points, eight assists and 2.5 rebounds.
Matching up against Irving Monday night will be the player he's sharing the award with. Albany's junior point guard averaged 16 points, nine rebounds, 3.5 assists and shot 50 percent from the field in wins over New Hampshire and Maine. The two point guards will lead their teams on a nationally televised broadcast. CBS Sports Network will have the game with Don Criqui joined by former NBA player Wally Szczerbiak. It will be the first America East game ever to be televised on the CBS Sports Network and one of five games scheduled by the network this season.
The top two scorers (Gerardo Suero and Darryl Partin) in America East will face off at Agganis Arena Monday night, when the Terriers look to take down their third straight title competitor.