By: Matt Doherty
Everything is on the line Thursday night at Case Gym when the Boston University Terriers host the American University Eagles in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament.
The Terriers finished the regular season at 11-7 in the league (18-13 overall), good enough for the third seed while American used a second half surge to grab the sixth seed at 9-9 (11-18 overall).
The Eagles were dead last in Division 1 offense through the first 17 games, scoring just 52 PPG which resulted in a 2-15 start. However, American has since won 9 out of their last 12, highlighted by a 5-game win streak in early February.
A lot of their success can be credited to new head coach Mike Brennan’s Princeton style offense. The Eagles use a slow, methodical pace and efficient possessions to grind out wins.
Senior guard Jesse Reed leads the team in scoring at 12.8 PPG but the biggest surprise has been freshman Delante Jones who averaged 12 PPG and 3.6 RPG on his way to being named Patriot League Rookie of the Year.
American will have to slow down the high-powered Boston University offense in a game that contrasts two different styles.
In two matchups this season, American was able to limit the BU offense but not slow them down as the Terriers took both games, a 61-50 win at American in early January and a 71-51 win at home three weeks ago.
But this matchup presents a lot more at stake. A win and you punch your ticket to the semifinals; a loss and your season is over. The Terriers are excited for the tournament as they look to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
“I think we’re excited to play a home game. I think they deserve that. I think they’re excited to get some guys back too,” Coach Joe Jones said after the regular season finale victory against Holy Cross.
In that game, Kyle Foreman and Nathan Dieudonne both sat out, while Nick Havener played limited minutes dealing with an injury himself. Foreman and Havener should both be good to go on Thursday but Dieudonne’s status is still up in the air.
If Dieudonne is unable to go, the Terriers will continue to ride the shoulders of junior Eric Fanning. Fanning scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the regular season finale against Holy Cross and picked up First-Team All-Patriot-League honors on Monday. BU’s leading scorer is also eager to deliver a deep run in the tournament for BU.
“It’s one game in this tournament. Our morale is fine. I think we are fine, we are going to go in and try to shock some people,” Fanning said.
Although the Terriers have already beaten American twice this season, Fanning knows how difficult it is to beat a team three times. For the Terriers to win the third matchup of the season, they need to play at their high speed pace rather than the Eagles slow methodical pace.
In order to execute this game plan, the Terriers will need their shot makers to step up outside of Fanning, such as guards Cheddi Mosely and John Papale. Big men Blaise Mbargorba and Dylan Haines will also need to contribute, especially if Dieudonne is out.
The BU players who were around in 2013 still have a sour taste in their mouth from when American came to Agganis Arena and beat the Terriers in the Patriot League Championship.
Tip-off for a trip to the league semifinals is scheduled for 7 PM and can be seen live on the Patriot League Network and heard on WTBU Sports Radio.