By: Matt Doherty and Alex Smith
Both games will be part of the Turnpike Trophy Series, a year long competition between the schools’ athletic programs.
Men’s Basketball vs. Holy Cross – 7 p.m.
After a disappointing 5-7 non-conference campaign, the Boston University men’s basketball team will begin league play Friday night at Case Gym when the defending Patriot League Tournament champion Holy Cross Crusaders visit Boston.
The Terriers have not played since their December 21 loss to America East foe UMass Lowell – snapping BU’s seven-game win streak against the America East. It was a loss that highlighted a tumultuous stretch of their schedule in which the Terriers went 1-6 after starting the season 4-1.
While three of those losses came against power-five programs in Syracuse, Connecticut, and North Carolina State, BU has dropped frustrating defeats such as the one to Lowell and at home to Canisius.
Joe Jones’ team was picked to finish second in the Patriot League preseason poll and after a sub .500 non-conference performance the Terriers hope to right the ship in the games that matter most.
Following their miraculous nine seeded Patriot League tournament run last spring, the Crusaders haven’t been able to carry over the momentum starting this year at just 6-7.
Bill Carmody returns vital pieces from last seasons team though in guards Malachi Alexander and Robert Champion. Alexander averages a team-high 14.2 points per game while Champion chips in over 13 PPG.
Holy Cross plays a slow, grind-it-out, style of game, vastly different than the Terriers. The team from Worcester averages just 61 PPG and gives up 64.
In the non-conference, Holy Cross scored key road wins over Harvard and Albany but dropped tough games to South Carolina, Syracuse, and Monmouth. The Crusaders also lost to New Hampshire and Maine, two teams that the Terriers knocked off.
In Friday’s game, the play of BU’s star players, Eric Fanning and Cedric Hankerson, will be key after the duo struggled mightily at Lowell. The Terriers will also need to control the paint where they were out-rebounded and outscored last time out.
For BU, a win on Friday would be a tremendous way to forget about the non-conference schedule and begin their march to the top of the league standings, especially with a visit from preseason favorite Lehigh on Monday.
Tip-off from Case Gym on Friday is scheduled for 7 pm and can be heard live on mixlr.com/wtbusports.
Women’s Basketball at Holy Cross – 1 p.m.
The women’s team (2-9) will make the short trip to Worcester to kick off their league campaign. They’ve endured a longer layoff than Coach Jones’ men, having last played on December 14th. They did manage to score their second win of the season in that game, a come from behind victory over UMass Amherst.
This gives the Terriers an opportunity to earn their first win streak since the 2013-14 season. The Crusaders check in with an identical 2-9 record, and both wins have come against opponents BU also faced. Wins over Marist and UMass Lowell are sole bright spots in a rough start for the team from Worcester, however their average margin of -8 does look better than the Terriers who check in at -12.
The match up will offer BU their first chance to earn Turnpike Trophy points, as they were swept by the Crusaders last year. Infiniti Thomas-Waheed leads Holy Cross in scoring at 13.8 points per game, and was a sophomore standout last season. The junior from Newton has already been named a member of the All-League second team in her career, as well as the All-Defensive team. A lanky 5’10” guard, she’s a dynamic force at both ends. Her quickness and size are unique at this level, which was evident as she snatched six steals in the Crusaders’ dominant 74-50 win over BU in Worcester last February.
Lauren Manis is the only other Crusader averaging double digits. The freshman forward from Franklin is a scorer of 11.4 points per game and also leads the team in rebounding. As is common for many freshman, she struggles from the stripe, barely eclipsing the 50% mark.
Corinne Williams could be the perfect foil to Thomas-Waheed while the Terriers have many bigs capable of matching the 6’1″ Manis down low. What remains to be seen, however, is how many of those players will be available. Williams, Erin Bayram and freshman guard Vanessa Edgehill were all out when BU last took the floor, and the contest marked Williams’ third consecutive injury scratch. Whether or not she is available may be the biggest factor as the Terriers try to stymy the Crusaders.
Just three teams check in to league play with winning records. Last year’s poor results mean the Terriers will come into nearly every conference game, at least until February, as underdogs. They’ll have the opportunity to snatch wins from inexperienced, error-prone teams. The Crusaders average over 18 turnovers a game, which could give BU a chance to earn their first away win this season.