Boston University (16-15, 12-4 AE) will have to wait for Saturday evening's nightcap to begin their title defense when they take on the host Hartford Hawks (8-21, 7-9 AE) in the America East Quarterfinals at 8:15 p.m. EDT. The third seeded Terriers will look to become the first repeat winner since Albany accomplished the feat in 2006-07 and the first team outside the top two seeds to win an America East title since Delaware won the North Atlantic Conference Title in 1993.
These two teams met a week ago in Boston, with the Terriers earning a 64-55 victory in the team's regular season finale. America East Player of the Year Darryl Partin led Boston University on Senior Day with 21 points and senior co-captain Matt Griffin added eight points, five rebounds and five assists. Hawks freshmen Yolonzo Moore II led Hartford with 17 points and senior point guard Andre Torres chipped in with 12 points, six assists, four steals and seven turnovers.
The game went down to the final minutes but Hartford's poor execution over the final two minutes allowed the Terriers to escape with a victory. After Hartford used a 13-6 run to cut the Terriers lead to 58-55, Hartford failed to score another point over the final 2:47. Hartford's final six possesions included two missed 3-pointers and four turnovers, as they saw Boston University slowly put the game away.
The Terriers have won four straight against the Hawks and ended Hartford's season on their own home floor in each of the past two seasons. Last year, the Terriers used a 20-of-22 free throw shooting performance to escape Hartford with a 55-49 semifinal victory over the sixth seeded Hawks. Overall, Boston University has won five of seven postseason games against the Hawks.
Keys To The Game:
Hartford: Get The Ball To Mark Nwakamma: The talented Texas forward earned a spot on the All Rookie Team Friday after serving as the second leading scorer for the Hawks at just under 10 points per game in conference. Nwakamma abused the Terriers' bigs Saturday with his arsenal of post moves to the tune of 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and proved to be the Hawks only effective inside option. If not for constant foul trouble limiting him to 14 minutes, Nwakamma easily could have led the Hawks to victory.
Boston University: Make D.J. Irving The Focal Point: Irving is one of the most talented players in the conference and can easily change games when he has the chance. The team's offense has bogged down too often this season though, taking Irving with it. If first year head coach Joe Jones makes the game plan about Irving and has Irving continually attack the basket, the entire Terriers team will be more dangerous.
Prediction: It's amazing to see how far the Hawks have come this season with so many freshmen playing pivotal roles but they still have a long way to go before they can compete for a championship. Irving and Partin are one of the best one-two duos in the conference and the Hawks certainly don't have enough scoring options to keep up when the Terriers are at their best If Dom Morris and Patrick Hazel can at least match their regular season numbers, the Terriers should be able to pull out a five to seven point win.
Boston University 67, Hartford 61