Boston University dropped their seventh game in a row Thursday night when they took on Vermont in their America East season opener. Even though the Terriers played slightly better than they have been playing, the team showed how far they still have to go, with the conference season upon them,
Guess Who's Back
D.J. Irving made his return against Vermont, after missing the previous three games due to lingering concussion symptoms. The sophomore point guard though was far from his usual dynamic self. In 27 minutes, Irving finished with just three points, three assists, one rebound and two turnovers. He lacked his normal efficiency, as he hit just 1-of-8 shots from the field, including 1-of-5 three pointers. The good news is that he's back in the lineup, the bad is that the three week layoff has put him off his game a little bit and it could take another game or two before Irving is back to playing like himself.
Against Vermont he was tentative, which is understandable after undergoing a concussion. But Irving is at his best when he takes a defender one-one-one and blows by him on his way to the rim. When Irving is attacking and being aggressive, the rest of the Terriers benefit from open looks and Irving gets to the free throw line frequently. In the first 11 games Irving played, he got to the free throw line 4.2 times per game. He failed to get to the line against the Catamounts, who are known for their struggles against speedy guards and it was just the second time all season he had failed to get to the charity stripe. Irving will get better but he'll also need to get over his wariness of contact if the Terriers are going to break out of this slump.
Where Is the Bench?
It's hard to win basketball games as a first-year head coach, you have to figure out your personnel, insert your system and watch the painful transition as the players slowly pick up said system. A problem occurs when you're almost halfway through the season and you don't have enough players who have picked up the system and are healthy and ready to play at the Division 1 level, and right now the Terriers are barely getting by. In the past three games, Boston University head coach Joe Jones has played 10 players, 10 players and nine players, to no avail. With Irving's return Thursday, Jones kept freshmen Zach Chionuma and James Kennedy on the bench, in favor of seldom used sophomore guard Mike Terry. It's becoming clear from all the mixing and matching and switches in his starting lineup, that Jones still hasn't found a rotation or a set of players that he thinks are working well together.
Thursday night the bench contributed 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists and four blocks in 78 minutes. If you switch senior forward Patrick Hazel who is a regular starter out of the mix and insert Jeff Pelage who got the start, the numbers get even uglier. For some teams those numbers would count as adequate production, even for past Terriers squads that might have been enough; but the current version of the Terriers simply don't have enough weapons or talented stars, to survive on the merits of their starting five alone. Outside of Matt Griffin, Boston University has no scoring coming off the bench and the team just seems to lack focus when it comes to rebounding. A more concerted effort needs to come from the bench and that might mean unleashing the freshmen and letting them make their mistakes on the court, rather than just in practice.
Dom Morris Sighting
The sophomore forward turned in one of his best performances of the season against Vermont, finishing with nine points and 11 rebounds and earned the America East Player of the Game for Boston University. Morris had been silent since a breakout game against Boston College at the beginning of December but showed up in a big way against the Catamounts. His 11 rebounds were a team-high and he tied with fellow forward Patrick Hazel for the team lead in offensive rebounds with three. While he still struggled with his shooting, Morris was a perfect 3-of-3 from the charity stripe and was especially effective early on, when the Terriers built up a 13-8 lead to begin the game.