By: Chris Lynch
The Boston University Terriers have had an up and down start to their season. The team has played four games and stands at 2-2 on the young season. They now face their biggest challenge to this point. On Tuesday night, the Terriers will travel to Lexington, Kentucky to play the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
These teams matched up last season on November 21. While Kentucky won the game 89-64, BU played the nation’s top collegiate team close for the first half, only trailing by five points at halftime. Kentucky was just too deep and talented to be contained.
Last year’s Wildcat team produced six players who were drafted into the NBA in the 2015 draft. This year’s edition is also highly skilled and a hard unit for anyone to match up with.
The Wildcats are led by freshman Jamal Murray and sophomore Tyler Ulis in scoring at 14.0 points a game. They’ve got two other players averaging double digit points and a total of six players averaging 20 or more minutes per game on the season. They’re young, skilled, balanced, and have won every game they’ve played by at least 11 points, and look to continue that run against a Terrier team that has mad a good start to the season but hardly a perfect opener.
BU continues to be hampered by an injury to Cedric Hankerson that will keep him out of the game. Hankerson was the leading scorer in the game at Rupp Arena between the Terriers and Wildcats with 24 points. Eric Fanning is also still out on a suspension, which keeps BU shorthanded for the game.
However, Kentucky is not taking BU lightly. In his pregame comments, Kentucky assistant coach John Robic said that “BU is a skilled team. They’re 2-2 now, they should be 4-0. We’re impressed with what they’re running and that’s a credit to (Coach) Joe Jones.” The Terriers have played excellent basketball and came up just short in both of their losses this season. This will serve as an excellent test for the Terriers early.
BU does have two major factors over Kentucky.
The first is experience. The starting unit for the Terriers, except for Kyle Foreman, has played together for a full year in their current system. And Foreman has fit his role in the offense expertly and looks like an experienced upperclassman, not a freshman. Kentucky may have a talented team, but they are very inexperienced. The only regular starter for the Wildcats who is not a freshman is sophomore Tyler Ulis. Every other starter is a freshman.
The other major factor is three-point shooting. Kentucky as a team is shooting .276 from three point range, while the Terriers are shooting .417 as a unit. John Papale is leading the way with a .514 percentage from beyond the arc and he’s made 19 total three-pointers to lead the Terriers in scoring average at 17.8 points a game on the young season.
If BU can get and make three point shots and get some good play out of forwards Justin Alston and Kentucky native Nathan Dieudonne, then they will give the top ranked team a run for their money. BU is talented enough to keep this game close and interesting. They played the Wildcats well at Rupp last year, and the team is more cohesive and complete this season.