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.