March 4, 2014
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SI.com - After several stops, Coach Jones has found perfect fit at BU
BOSTON - Entering a conference tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2004, the Boston University men's basketball team will host Lafayette in a Patriot League quarterfinal match-up Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Agganis Arena.
By virtue of claiming sole possession of the conference's regular season title, the Terriers (22-9, 15-3 PL) have earned the right to host every round if they are able to advance. They will first be confronted with a dangerous opponent in a Lafayette squad that features the league's No. 2 scoring offense (71.9 ppg).
Selected No. 2 in the preseason poll, the Leopards (11-19, 6-12 PL) concluded the regular season below expectations in a three-way tie for No. 7 and entered the tournament as the No. 9 seed due to tiebreaker rules. A major reason for the below-.500 finish was the absence of 6-foot-7 guard Seth Hinrichs, who missed a third of the team's games due to injury but still managed to claim All-PL Third Team accolades by averaging 16.3 ppg and 5.9 rpg.
Coming off Monday's 84-71 first-round victory at No. 8 Loyola Maryland, Lafayette is 7-3 in the last 10 games with big wins over three of the league's top four seeds, including two on the road. The Leopards won at No. 4 Bucknell (66-58) and No. 3 Holy Cross (76-64). They also topped the No. 2 seed American, 74-62, at home back on Feb. 15.
In the first meeting at Lafayette, BU led 37-34 at halftime and pulled away in the middle of the second half for an 89-78 victory. During the second game, BU outscored the Leopards in points off turnovers, 23-2, en route to a dominating 88-54 victory after facing a 22-16 deficit in the previous meeting.
The Terriers have shot a combined 55.8 percent in the two games, including an impressive 47.3 percent from behind the arc. Patriot League All-Conference First Team honoree Maurice Watson Jr. has led the offense averaging 13.0 ppg and 8.5 apg against Lafayette with just four total turnovers. Overall, he dished out 206 assists, third most ever in the PL season record book, and has already cracked the top 10 for career assists at BU despite just being a sophomore.
Named a Second Team All-PL member, senior D.J. Irving ranks fifth all-time in assists and is just seven points away from grabbing the No. 10 spot from Chaz Carr ('04), who finished with 1,406. One beneficiary of both his and Watson's efforts is sophomore Justin Alston, who went 9-of-11 under the basket for a career-high 17 points in Agganis against Lafayette.
Fellow sophomore John Papale has been a man on fire on the offensive end after starting the season at 29.7 FG% and 25.0 3FG%, respectively, through the first 10 games. He has shot 51.0 FG% and 51.4 3FG% since then to move into sixth in 3-point shooting percentage (.431) in the Patriot League. Senior Dom Morris has also been key for BU, averaging 11.2 ppg and 6.4 rpg on the season, while All-PL Rookie Team honoree Cedric Hankerson is shooting 38.3 percent from behind the arc to average 6.1 ppg.
Lafayette shoots an impressive 47.4 percent from the field and currently features five men in double-figure scoring. Forward Dan Trist (13.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is second in both points and rebounds behind Hinrichs, and All-PL Rookie Team member Nick Lindner is averaging 11.1 ppg. The Leopards though are allowing 74.1 ppg, worst in the conference, and will try to get stops against a BU offense that averaged 88.5 ppg in the first two meetings.
The Terriers enter the tournament seeking their second NCAA berth in four years and third overall as a No. 1 seed. They are currently on a two-game losing streak though as the top seed with both heartbreaking defeats occurring at home. They fell in the 2003 title game by one and in the 2004 quarterfinals by four after capturing titles in both 1983 and 1997.
The winner of Wednesday's match-up will next face the winner of the No. 4 Bucknell/No. 5 Army game on Saturday (March 8) at either 3:30 or 5:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network. The highest remaining seed will host the semifinal contest.