Boston University will look to continue their dominance over their neighbors to the north as they look to move above .500 for the first time all season long.
Boston University (13-13, 9-3 America East) will look to end their streaky start to the season Thursday night at Case Gym when they host the Maine Black Bears (11-11, 5-6 AE) at 7 p.m. EDT. It's been a season of streaks for the Terriers, who have followed a pattern all season long: four losses, four wins, seven losses, seven wins, two losses and are currently riding a two-game winning streak. (TV: None/Radio: 1510 AM WWZN)
The Terriers have held the upper hand in the all-time series, winning 56 of 96 contests all time, including nine of the past 11. Maine has failed to win a game in Boston in their past five tries and have completely flopped in conference play after losses to the Terriers in each year. Ted Woodward's squad looked like the early favorite in America East this season, until Boston University visited in early January.
After a strong first half by Maine that ended with the Black Bears holding a 33-27 lead, Maine could find no answer for the Terriers one-two punch in the second half. Sophomore point guard D.J. Irving led Boston University with 23 points and 11 assists, becoming the first Terriers to finish with a points-assists double-double since February of 1998 (Levar Folk). While Irving was consistently strong all game long, it was the Terriers leading scorer, senior guard Darryl Partin who went off in the second stanza. Partin scored 24 of his 27 points in the second half, behind 6-of-6 shooting from behind the arc, as he surpassed 1,000 points for his career (joint between LaSalle and Boston University). In the end, the Terriers walked away with a 77-68 victory, handing the Black Bears their first home loss.
Since that contest, the Terriers have won seven of nine, including a thrilling road win Monday at Albany. Boston University completed the comeback in an even more thrilling fashion than the Maine game, as the Terriers overcame a 16-point deficit behind Partin and Irving. Partin scored 25 this time in the second half and a career-high 33 for the game, as he became the 31st player to score 1,000 points as a Terrier. Irving added 17 points and four assists and center Patrick Hazel hit two key free throws in the final seconds, to give Boston University an 81-78 victory.
Maine has gone through a swoon since the first matchup, losing five of eight games to fall all the way to fifth in the conference standings. The Black Bears had a chance to get back to .500 in conference (5-6) after a three-game winning streak, but fell 83-73 at Vermont. Vermont jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first half and Maine was never able to cut it to fewer than six, despite a game-high 20 points from senior guard Gerald McLemore.
The Terriers have been red-hot at home in conference play, winning four of five games this year and fifteen in a row, until last week's 68-67 loss to Vermont. Outside of the brilliant play of Irving and Partin, Boston University has been winning with their defense; the Terriers are second in the conference in points allowed in conference games, at just 60.1 points per game and are also third or better in field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and blocks.
McLemore leads a three-pronged attack of three of the best players in the America East conference. While he leads the team in scoring at 18.1 ppg and is known as a sharp-shooter, freshmen standout Justin Edwards and sophomore center Alasdair Fraser provide different strengths for the Black Bears. Edwards is an athletic forward who is second in scoring (15.3 ppg), rebounding (6.5 rbg) and assists (3.5 apg), while leading the team with 93 free throw attempts. Fraser is a huge bruiser out of Scotland and leads the team in rebounding with 7.8 rbg and is third in scoring at 13.2 ppg.
Prediction: Despite an immense amount of talent, the Black Bears are 0-5 against the top four teams in America East and they just don't seem to have the discipline to stick with those teams. Boston University certainly can't take Maine lightly, especially after two poor first halves in their past three games, that cost them one game and nearly another. The key in this one is getting Irving on track early, Maine point guard Raheem Singleton is overly aggressive and prone to foul trouble, if he can be forced to the bench, Irving can run wild and with him the Terriers offense.
Boston University 75, Maine 72