Quick hitters as we head into a busy Saturday:
- If there was any doubt as to the value of a point guard, look no further than Boston University and floor leader D.J. Irving. There are a few reasons the Terriers have now won five games in a row and is tied with Stony Brook (who they beat last Saturday) atop the America East Conference, but Irving’s return to health following a concussion last month is chief among them. That was readily apparent to one opposing coach, who thinks he’s the Terriers’ best player.
“I think they’re at their best when the ball is in his hands and getting guys shots,” said Albany head coach Will Brown.
- Speaking of the Terriers, if they are to continue this run, they will need to improve on the glass. Albany beat them badly on the backboards Monday night, and that wasn’t an isolated event. It was so bad Monday that if there was a time of possession stat like in football games, the Great Danes would have had a big advantage. It made the Terriers’ defense in the first half that much more impressive.
“It’s an area of major concern for me,” said head coach Joe Jones, “because I think if we’re going to continue to have success in this league, we’re going to need to defend and rebound at a high rate, much better than we did tonight in terms of the glass, especially when we go on the road.”
- Brown said that the big reason he sat Gerardo Suero, America East’s top scorer, for a lot of the second half against the Terriers was simple. He found that the group he put in was playing well, but also wanted his star to gain something else from it. Suero was just 1-10 from the field on the night for six points, and had eight turnovers.
“He got frustrated,” said Brown. “With the combination of BU doing a really good job on him and him getting frustrated, it got to a point where he just wasn’t there today.”
- On Thursday, Lafayette used a big second half to overcome a terrible shooting first half to beat Holy Cross in a matchup of two teams that can probably be best characterized as consistently inconsistent this season. The Leopards, who shot 19.4 percent from the field in the first half before shooting 52 percent in the second, haven’t been able to put together a streak of more than two wins together. But they are 2-0 on the road in early Patriot League play and their only loss came against league favorite Bucknell. With co-captain Tony Johnson back and being in better game shape now that he has a few games under his belt, they may be ready to turn a corner.
“I feel really good about it,” said freshman Dan Trist, one of three Leopards who scored 11 points on the night. “The seniors were telling me how hard it is to win on the road in the Patriot League. Every gym is like a fortress, pretty much.”
- On the other side, Holy Cross head coach Milan Brown was at a loss for words to describe his team’s effort. The real oddity is that the Crusaders got next to nothing from the first unit in the second half, while a new group from a wholesale substitution early on led a rally to regain the lead. Holy Cross has had times where they have played very well, but Thursday’s second half hasn’t been an isolated case although it was probably their worst half of the season.
- It hasn’t been the best stretch for North Carolina. First, they got blown out by 33 at Florida State on Saturday, then Dexter Strickland tore his ACL and is done for the season. It’s not a small loss for this team, as he’s the closest thing they have to a backup point guard.
- Every year, there is at least one key player who is academically ineligible for the second semester. The first one to make news this time around is California sophomore forward Richard Solomon, who started eight of the Golden Bears’ 13 games and led the team in rebounding. That’s a big blow to a team that figures to contend for the Pac-12 title, something which just got more difficult.