BOSTON – It was just a little over a month ago that Boston University looked like they were about to get untracked. The Terriers started the season with four straight losses, including a couple that were tough to take, but then won two of three in Rhode Island and knocked off local rival Boston College less than a week after that. Then they hit a wall in the form of a six-game losing streak that they snapped on Sunday, and now they are hopeful they can get back to where they were after the Boston College victory.
Not only did the Terriers start winning games over a month ago, but they looked ready to win more. They seemed to have adjusted to new head coach Joe Jones more by that time, for starters. It also looked like they had found a post scorer to complement the perimeter duo of D.J. Irving and Darryl Partin, something they desperately needed.
In the three games in Rhode Island, senior Patrick Hazel came alive and looked to be as confident as ever. Long a defensive specialist, he had two near double-doubles, missing by two rebounds each time, and then closed out the weekend with one as the Terriers made a concerted effort to get the ball to him. Hazel made that move pay off that weekend, but he never built on it after that. Since that weekend, he has scored in double figures just once and has yet to reach double figures in rebounding.
On Sunday, Hazel was better and at times Dom Morris played assertively. The latter is something that hasn’t happened enough, and as talented as Morris is he is on his way to being an under-acheiver if he continues to not play aggressively to meet his potential.
“We need those guys every game, and in the six-game losing streak we had, they haven’t been there,” Irving said of the frontcourt players. “We’re trying to really get it in their heads that we need them to crash the glass and be aggressive on offense.”
It’s not as though the Terriers simply played poorly for six games. They played some tough teams in that stretch, with Quinnpiac being the one game that might stand out as a game they should win. Four of the six came on the road (Saint Joseph’s, Villanova, La Salle and Quinnipiac) and they had to play Harvard and Bucknell, both favorites in their respective leagues, at home. That stretch is unique in America East this season, as their non-conference strength of schedule is in the top 100, while every other team played a non-conference slate whose strength of schedule was north of 200.
That stretch is also likely a part of why Jones doesn’t seem overly worried about the mental state of his team.
“I think you’ve just got to try to keep things at bay in terms of not being too down, because we played some really tough teams,” said Jones. “I think we let the losses affect us, which any team would, once they started mounting up. Hopefully this gives us a little more confidence going forward.”
Not helping during the losing streak is that D.J. Irving missed three games due to a concussion he suffered against Villanova. While he was out, Partin wasn’t any better, as defenses focused in on him more. In his first game back a few days earlier, Irving wasn’t himself. But he looked much better on Sunday as he had eight assists with no turnovers an ran the offense like he hadn’t missed a minute of play. He combined with Matt Griffin for 13 assists without a turnover, and if there’s any question of his importance to the team, it comes in the form of being second on the team in scoring to go along with a 2.17 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Besides having Irving back to normal, the Terriers got a big lift off the bench from Malik Thomas. Thomas missed the first seven games of the season due to an injury suffered in preseason practice, so he was slow to get going at first because of that in addition to being a freshman. Thomas had 14 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes, but mainly he was in the game and made plays. He said he feels like he’s all the way back from the injury, and in time should help this team significantly.
“That was an unfortunate injury for him, because I thought he was playing well before he got injured,” said Jones. “He’s one of the more talented guys that we have.”
Boston University is hopeful that Sunday’s win gets them back on track. It would come at a good time since they head to Maine on Wednesday before hosting Stony Brook and Albany, all of whom came into Sunday at 2-0 in early conference games. Now would be a good time to be back where they were after the win at Boston College.