By: Matthew Doherty
HARTFORD, CONN. — In last year’s matchup against the University of Connecticut, the Terriers nearly stole a major upset, but fell to the Huskies, 51-49, at the XL Center. On Sunday night in Hartford, BU will look to avenge its close defeat from a year ago and pick up their first win of the 2017 season.
“I can’t worry about UConn,” Head Coach Joe Jones said after Monday’s loss to Albany. “Right now I have to focus on my team and help my team get better.”
The Terriers dropped their first two games of the season, both at home, to Northeastern and the Great Danes. In the loss to Albany, BU was out-rebounded by 11 and allowed 56 points in the paint. They played without sophomore forward Max Mahoney, whose loss was felt down low. Mahoney’s status for Sunday is up in the air.
With Mahoney out, fellow forward Nick Havener shined offensively. The senior scored a career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. However, Havener fouled out for the second consecutive game, leaving BU shorthanded for the stretch run.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Havener said. “It’s something I’m certainly working on. It’s all about playing smart and knowing the situation. I just don’t think that I played intellectually.”
Similarly, Coach Jones was not happy with his teams performance on Monday night.
“You have to play much harder than that on both ends of the floor,” Jones said. “I thought we were able to show some things and now can we sustain it. We’re not the same team. We have to grow and it’s going to take us time.”
The Terriers have struggled with foul trouble in the first two games and failed to put together a full 40-minute effort. On Sunday, they will need to sustain energy and effort for the full game, especially against a talented opponent in Connecticut.
The Huskies are not the same powerhouse they once were; however, they still have talent on their roster in guards Jalen Adams, Terry Larrier and Alterique Gilbert. UConn has made the NCAA Tournament just once since their national title in 2014; they’ve spent the last two seasons dealing with transfers from top recruits and constant rumors about the job security of coach Kevin Ollie.
In last year’s game, BU matched up well with UConn’s length and athleticism, especially in the half court, which kept them in the contest. Both teams were very sloppy and provided a slow, grind-it-out game.
The key Sunday for BU will be making their shots. Now-graduated Eric Fanning scored 21 points in last year’s game, but who will be the go-to guy Sunday remains to be seen. The Terriers will need show up offensively and hit three-pointers.
If Mahoney returns to the lineup, BU will have the height to match up with Connecticut. The key down low will be to limit offensive rebounds and stay out of trouble. Most of this core was around for last year’s near upset and confidence should be high. We’ll see if the Terriers can learn form that game and pull out an impressive win.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be heard live on WTBU Sports Radio.