Boston University (7-11, 3-1 America East) will look to knock off their third America East title contender in less than a week, when they take on Albany University (12-7, 4-1 AE) Monday night at 7p.m. EDT at the Agganis Arena. (TV: CBS Sports Network/Radio: 1510 AM The Zone)
The Terriers have won five straight games against the Great Danes including last season's 63-44 win at Madison Square Garden. In the first America East game ever played at MSG, senior John Holland scored 25 points in front of his home crowd and the Terriers cruised hitting 47 percent of their shots. Earlier in the season at Albany, Boston University netted their first road win of the year, by overcoming a 16-point halftime deficit to win 70-67. Holland once again was the leader for the Terriers but Darryl Partin also chipped in with 15 points per game in the two meetings.
Partin and company won their third straight game Saturday, when they defeated Stony Brook 61-55 in a rematch of last season's America East Championship Game. The Terriers jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first half and never trailed, as they held off the Seawolves on the back of a strong second half from Partin and some stingy play inside. Partin scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half and fellow senior Patrick Hazel nearly had a double-double, in halting Stony Brook's six-game winning streak.
Albany earned a huge conference win of their own Saturday, when they held off Maine University 76-75. The Great Danes didn't earn their first lead until there was 1:36 to play but hung on behind 26 points from junior college transfer Gerardo Suero. Mike Black's layup with 1:36 to go gave the Great Danes a 75-73 lead and John Puk's free throw iced the game, as the Albany defense held Maine to just one made basket in the final 90 seconds.
Boston University is led by two of the best players in the conference in Partin and D.J. Irving and a slew of athletic forwards. Partin is second in the conference in scoring at 20.1 points per game and has been extremely hot in the second half of the past two games. At the other guard position, Irving is second on the team in scoring (12.1ppg) and leads the conference in assists at 5.4 per game. Since his return from an injury, the Terriers have won three of four and have averaged nearly 14 more points per game (68.8 points per game) than when Irving sat out (55 points per game). Hazel leads: the conference in blocks (1.8bpg), the Terriers in rebounding (6.2rbg) and is third in scoring at 7.2 points per game.
The Great Danes are led by a trio of guards that includes Suero who has been the best player in the league thus far. Suero leads the conference and is fourth in the nation in scoring at 22.4 points per game, and even adds a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game. The Dominican Republic native is so effective because of his ability to get to the basket and draw fouls. On the season Suero has gone to the line 167 times in 19 games, that's an average of just under nine free throws per game. Add in the fact that he's seventh in the conference in field goal percentage (48.7 percent), sixth in free throw percentage (82 percent) and his 36 percent 3-point average is just outside the top ten in the league and he's a near unstoppable force.
And it's not just Suero that the Terriers will have to worry about; junior guards Logan Aronhalt and Black have been stalwarts for the Great Danes for three years. Black, the team's point guard, leads the team in assists (4.3 apg) and is third in scoring at 13.2 points per game. Just ahead of him on the scoring charts is Aronhalt, the 6-3 Zanesville, Ohio product is deadly from behind the arc and averages 15.8 points per game.
Key to the Game: Who wins the paint? Neither team can pride themselves on their consistent play inside but this game could very well be decided in the paint. Both sides have guards who are used to driving to the paint at will and will look to do more of the same today. If the Terriers can keep Suero out of the lane or at least make him think twice about going there, than they'll have an edge. On the other side, Albany's frontcourt is a huge weakness and they'll need to keep the rebounding and second chance points totals close. While Suero, Partin and Irving are the three best players in the game, expect Hazel and Albany sophomore forward Luke Devlin to play key roles in deciding the game.
Prediction: The last time the Terriers played at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (their most famous alumnus), they played the most thrilling game in Case Gymnasium history in a 99-97 4OT victory. Tonight's game should be just as exciting, with two of the most entertaining teams in the conference. The matchups between Partin and Suero, Black and Irving and Hazel and Devlin inside, all pit some of the conference's best players and the game could come down to the final possesion. I've got the Terriers in this one because of their depth inside. Hazel, Dom Morris and Malik Thomas are all capable of scoring in double-digits and Albany just doesn't have the big men to compete.
Boston University 71, Albany 65