March 3, 2012
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - Despite winning the rebounding and turnover battle, the third-seeded Boston University men's basketball team dropped a hard-fought 53-49 decision at No. 6 Hartford on Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the America East Championships presented by Newman's Own.
Named America East Player of the Year on Friday, Darryl Partin led the Terriers (16-16) with a game-high 17 points, while All-Conference Second Team honoree D.J. Irving had 12 points and five assists. Redshirt freshman Malik Thomas and senior Patrick Hazel combined for 15 boards to help BU out-rebound the Hawks, 39-33.
Featuring three men in double figures, Hartford shot 40 percent from the field while holding the Terriers to 32.1 percent. Mark Nwakamma had a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, and fellow All-Rookie Team honoree Nate Sikma tallied 16 points and seven rebounds. All-Conference Third Team honoree Andres Torres directed the offense with 12 points and five assists. He also used his physical play to create a game-high three steals.
BU took its final lead of the game, 49-47, off two made free throws from Partin with 1:49 left in regulation. Nwakamma responded with a drive to the basket for the layup and the foul. After his made free throw, the Terriers missed a 3-point attempt and then were forced into a turnover on the following two possessions, as the Hawks went 3-of-6 at the line over the final 40 seconds to earn the win.
Meeting the Hawks for the second time in seven days and for the third straight year in the America East tournament, the six-time champion Terriers looked to defend their title for the first time in program history. In last season's semifinals against UH, the Terriers went 20-of-22 (.909) from the free throw line to pull out a 55-49 victory. In tonight's contest, they shot 12-of-21 (.571) at the charity stripe for the loss.
Neither team was able to lead by more than six points in a game featuring seven ties and six lead changes. The Hawks took their largest lead, 12-6, at 13:02 in the first half after Torres hit a layup and a free throw attempt.
Irving's jumper ignited an 8-0 charge by the Terriers capped by a 3-pointer from senior Matt Griffin with 11:11 remaining in the half. Five minutes later, BU faced a 18-14 deficit but entered the locker room with a 27-21 advantage behind two jumpers and a 3-pointer from Irving.
Both he and Partin had 11 points apiece, as BU shot 10-of-24 (.417) in the first half, while UH went 7-of-24 (.292). The two men though would be held to just seven points combined in the second.
The Hawks quickly grabbed the lead back at 17:24 when Clayton Brothers' layup put UH ahead, 32-31. The game would remain relatively even until Partin's jumper gave the Terriers a 43-38 advantage with 6:14 left.
On the following possession though, Yolonzo Moore III drained a deep 3-pointer to cut the deficit to just two points. The Terriers came back with two made free throws on four attempts, including one from Irving at 4:37. BU's lead could have been larger, but the team was 3-of-9 at the line by that point in the second half.
Neither team scored over the next two minutes until Sikma's 3-pointer broke the drought. After Griffin hit two free throws, Sikma came back with another to tie the game at 47-47. Partin's two free throws gave BU;s its final lead of the game with 1:49 left.
The Terriers finished the night 17-of-53 (.321) overall and 3-of-19 (.158) from behind the arc, while UH went 18-of-45 (.400) and 6-of-22 (.273), respectively. BU scored 15 points off 15 UH turnovers, and the Hawks finished with 13 off 14 BU miscues. Neither squad had much success under the basket, combining for just 34 points in the paint.
The game marks the final appearance for seniors Darryl Partin, Matt Griffin, Patrick Hazel, Chris Kurz and the team's lone four-year letterman, Jeff Pelage. Last year, they played critical roles in helping BU claim its first America East title since 2002.
In just two years after transferring from La Salle, Partin finished tied-for-18th all-time at BU with 1988 AE Player of the Year Larry Jones in scoring with 1,130 points, while the Marquette transfer Hazel posted 116 career blocks, the second-most ever by a Terrier.
Next year's squad will return nine players, including America East assist leader D.J. Irving and 2009 AE Rookie of the Year Jake O'Brien, who received a medical redshirt in the fall due to a foot injury.