Men’s Basketball: What we learned from a narrow loss at Connecticut

By: Matt Doherty

If there was one word to describe Wednesday night’s non-conference showdown between Boston University and the University of Connecticut it would be ugly.

The Patriot League squad took the floor against the four-time national champions at the XL Center and the game featured turnovers, poor shooting percentages, and a combined total of 100 points as the Huskies knocked off the visitors 51-49.

The grind-it-out game had a total of 38 points… at the half, with both teams shooting under 33 percent and combining for 29 turnovers.

Let’s dive into what we learned about the Terriers among the sloppy play.

The first takeaway from the game is that UConn is not very good. The Huskies are now 3-4 on the season and nearly lost their third home game of the season to teams from the Northeast Conference and Colonial Conference.

A win by two points over a Patriot League team is not a good sign for a program that has hoisted four titles since 1999 and has alums by the names of Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, and Kemba Walker. Simply put, the Huskies are a mess right now.

With that being said, they do possess talent in sophomore guard Jalen Adams and senior big man Amida Brimah, and they do have a few intriguing freshman sidelined by injury. But for a program like that, they should look a lot better than what they did last night, no matter who is injured.

Now, give credit to the BU defense. The Terriers went with a two-three zone and it worked effectively. It was a great game plan from Head Coach Joe Jones to exploit the weakness of the Huskies: shooting.

UConn is a team with length and athleticism but they can’t shoot the ball. BU’s zone gave them problems all night long and kept the Terriers in the game. The Huskies shot 29% from three and just 32% from the field.

Surprisingly, BU matched up really well with UConn’s size, which shows just how good of a job Jones has done recruiting. You would think a program like BU from the Patriot League would not be able to match up athletically with UConn, but that was not the case.

Cedric Hankerson, Eric Fanning, Justin Alston, Nick Havener, seven footer Blaise Mbargorba, and the freshman Tyler Scanlon and Destin Barnes all presented length problems in the zone. If the Terriers can perfect that zone it could become a deadly weapon down the road because of their athletes.

BU also showed their size on the glass where they out rebounded UCONN 44-42 including 26-16 in the first half. The Terriers physical skill set gave them a chance to win the game.

However, it was the turnovers and poor offensive execution that dug them deep. It’s never a good sign when you only have two more made field goals than turnovers. The turnovers were absolute killers for the second game in a row.

Limit the turnovers, shoot better from the field, and the Terriers would have won the game. They simply couldn’t get the offense in a rhythm and shot just 3-19 3FG which is definitely due to solid perimeter defense from the Huskies.

The lone bright spot for the BU offense was senior Eric Fanning, who showed just how good he is in front of a national audience. Fanning struggled mightily in the loss to Saint Peter’s on Monday. Unhappy with his effort, Jones started Fanning on the bench Wednesday.

Fanning responded with 21 points and nine rebounds as he single handily willed the Terriers back in the game late in the second half. His abilty to drive to the basket was on display and the Huskies couldn’t stop him.

Fanning’s heroics weren’t enough though as the half court execution outside of him was poor. A 31% mark from the floor proved to be the difference in the game.

The loss to Saint Peter’s on Monday was frustrating because that was a game the Terriers ned to win. The loss against UConn is certainly understandable and there is no shame losing at Connecticut. However, it was a game that BU could have easily won.

Jones will go back to the drawing board as they gear up for another big time game Saturday at North Carolina State.

The Connecticut game should give the Terriers confidence that they have the athletes and length to keep up with a power program team. Now it comes down to execution and grinding out wins. That starts with taking care of the ball, an aspect that will certainly be preached by Jones before Saturday’s game in Raleigh.

Despite the consecutive road losses, BU looks like a team that is physically gifted enough to dominate in the Patriot League. The loss at UConn is important for this team. But the question is, which direction will they go?

We’ll find out Saturday.

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