Boston University (11-11, 7-1 America East) will take their red-hot streak to Long Island to take on Stony Brook (12-7, 7-1 AE) in a battle between first place teams in America East on national television at 9 p.m. EDT. Stony Brook's fans are planning a "red-out" for Pritchard Gym, with the game being televised nationally on ESPNU and ESPN3.
Every time these two teams play there seems to be a huge significance to the contest and this time around is no exception. The Terriers have denied Stony Brook their first ever America East Championship Tournament Championship in each of the past two seasons, including a 56-54 victory in last season's Championship Game at Agganis Arena in Boston. Overall Boston University has claimed five straight games in the series, including a series sweep last year.
This is the second meeting between the two teams this season, with Boston University edging the Seawolves 61-55 less than two weeks ago in Boston. In the win, senior guard Darryl Partin led the Terriers with 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting and knocked down two difficult jumpers late to seal the victory. Co-captain Patrick Hazel added nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks for the Terriers, who snapped the Seawolves' season-high six-game winning streak by forcing 15 turnovers.
There is no hotter team in America East right now then the Terriers who won their seventh in a row Tuesday with a 83-48 blowout against UMBC. Boston University led from start to finish and received great contributions from everyone who took the floor, as head coach Joe Jones was able to sit his starter for almost half the contest. Partin finished with a team-high 17 points and sophomore swingman Travis Robinson added 10 first-half points. The Terriers earned their largest margin of victory (35 points) and most points of the season (83).
Stony Brook took care of business Wednesday against Hartford 60-37 to earn their ninth victory in 10 games and stay perfect at home (9-0). Senior guard Bryan Dougher was the only Stony Brook player in double-digits but his 23 points on five 3-pointers was more than enough, when paired with the Seawolves stingy defense. Hartford shot just 31 percent from the field and 15 percent from behind the arc, while Stony Brook controlled the paint with a 35-19 rebounding advantage.
In a matchup of two of the stingiest defenses in America East, the game could come down to which team's stars shine the brightest. Boston University can boast two Player of the Year candidates in Partin and sophomore point guard D.J. Irving. Partin sits second in scoring in the conference at 19.5ppg and has been especially effective during the team's winning streak. He's shot 42 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the arc during the stretch, while averaging over 15 points per second half. Irving has been even more important to the team's success, over the past seven games he's averaged 11.8 points and 6.7 assists per game, while turning the ball over 2.2 times per game. Irving's speed in the first matchup between the two teams was a big difference, as he sparked a 14-2 run to start the game because the Seawolves couldn't find a way to slow him down.
As good as the Terriers backcourt has been, they'll need a lot of production out of their big men against one of the best front courts in the conference. Boston University relies primarily on Hazel, along with sophomore Dom Morris and redshirt freshmen Malik Thomas inside. Hazel has become a dual-threat this season for the Terriers combining his shot-blocking talents (104 in less than two seasons) with a nice touch around the basket (7.2ppg). He leads the team in rebounding with 5.9 rebounds per game and the conference in blocks with two per game. Morris and Thomas have both come on strong in conference play, with Morris grabbing seven or more rebounds in each of the team's past four games and Thomas providing a nice scoring punch off the bench.
Steve Pikell's side doesn't have a volume-scorer to match Partin but the Seawolves do have five players averaging at least 7.9ppg. Dougher, the school's leading all-time 3-point shooter, leads the team with 13.7ppg. He paces the conference with 3.1 made 3-pointers per game and is shooting just under 40 percent from behind the arc this season. While they may not be in the Top 20 in scoring in the conference, sophomore guard Dave Coley and senior forward Al Rapier are players to watch for Stony Brook. Both players are slashers who take the ball hard to the basket and welcome contact, the two combined for 31 of the team's 55 points in the first meeting between these two teams.
Junior forward Tommy Brenton was mostly silent in the first matchup, but is one of the most difficult players to play against in the entire league. Brenton was a consensus First Team member before he suffered an injury before last season and has come back this year to average 7.9 points and 8.1 rebounds, which is good for second best in America East. He anchors the team's conference leading defense (59.4 points allowed per game) and is a big reason why Stony Brook leads America East in rebounding (7.3 rebounding margin). If the last game was any indicator, Brenton will be the guy in charge of trying to slow down Partin in the game's final minutes-that's a must-see matchup.
Prediction: As huge as this game is, there's still seven conference games left on both team's schedules to decide the America East Regular Season champion. But this game is certainly a big one and you couldn't ask for a better matchup with both teams excelling on both sides of the ball right now. Partin and Irving have been fantastic over the past two weeks, but it's been an entire team effort that's propelled them to 7-1 and they'll need more of that tonight in one of the most difficult gyms to play in, in all of America East. The Seawolves are tremendous defensively but need to get more players involved offensively than the last game against the Terriers, when just five players managed to score. I think Boston University will come away with the victory if they can manage to keep the rebounding totals close to even and have Irving look for his own shot.
Boston University 67, Stony Brook 65