Terrier Basketball Squads Head to Center Court
Men and women to face Northeastern in season openers this weekend
When the men’s and women’s basketball Terriers launch their seasons this weekend, they will have one goal in mind: capturing their first Patriot League championship. Both squads have high expectations as they prepare to face off against rival Northeastern—the women tonight at Case Gym, the men on Sunday at TD Garden.
A week before his team’s bout against Northeastern, men’s basketball head coach Joe Jones was putting his players through a rigorous workout. They worked on offensive sets and shored up their defensive rotations in drills before running through game scenarios at an intense speed.
Jones describes the exercise as a test run for Sunday’s eagerly anticipated matchup, and a way to strengthen the team’s identity. “Get excited about good defensive possessions,” he exhorted his players. “That’s where games are won, and that’s more important than hitting a shot on the other end.”
The Terrier men enter the season with a lot of buzz. They are returning all five starters from a team that finished with a 17-12 record and made the postseason last year. As a result, they are currently ranked 11th overall in NBC Sports Mid-Major Power Rankings and have been unanimously voted the favorite to win the Patriot League in preseason polls.
But Jones cautions against reading too much into preseason rankings. “High expectations come with the territory here at BU,” he says. “In the three years I’ve been here, we’ve been picked to win the conference twice, and I think our guys are used to being in that situation. They understand that it’s not about where we’re chosen—it’s where we’re going to end up, and we’re more focused on that than anything else.”
It helps that Jones has a veteran team led by Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year and tricaptain D. J. Irving (MET’14), who averaged 14.2 points per game as starting point guard last season and earned a spot on the Mid-Major All-America team. Maurice Watson, Jr. (CGS’14) and John Papale (CGS’14) rejoin Irving in the starting lineup after outstanding freshman campaigns. The other two tricaptains, Dom Morris (MET’14) and Travis Robinson (SMG’14), round out the starting five.
“It’s fun to have guys back,” Jones says, “and great to have three senior leaders who have a comfort level and a good understanding of what we want to do. We’re going to play with a similar framework to what we’ve had the past few years, and those guys have been instrumental as far as establishing continuity.”
The Terriers open their season at 12:30 p.m. this Sunday when they take on Northeastern as part of the inaugural Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader at TD Garden. This will mark the fourth consecutive year these crosstown rivals have faced off in their season opener. Although the Huskies have won the past three years, each game has gone down to the final possession—and two went into overtime. Sunday’s contest is the first of 13 matchups in BU’s nonconference schedule before league play begins January 2.
“We feel a little pressure due to our ranking, but that’s natural,” Robinson says. “Coach Jones stresses that we approach the season one game at a time. All we’re worried about right now is Sunday’s game against Northeastern. We’re excited for the opportunity to play for a conference championship, but we have to get to that point. Right now we’re working hard to represent BU, and we’re going to continue to strive to make our school proud.”
The Terrier women finished second in America East last year, with a 13-2 record, but like all BU teams in the league were banned from the postseason tournament because of BU’s move to the Patriot League. Now in a new league and eligible to compete for a conference championship, the women could earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, a feat that has eluded them since the 2002–2003 season.
Head coach Kelly Greenberg says her players haven’t minced words when talking about their aspirations for the season. “The captains told me that the team’s number one goal is to win the Patriot League tournament,” she says. “This conference has never had an at-large bid, so that’s the only way we can get into the national tournament, and I think our players are more focused than ever on achieving that.” The team comes into the season ranked third in Patriot League preseason polls.
While the Terriers have lost their starting backcourt, Chantell Alford (MET’13) and Mo Moran (CAS’13), to graduation, Danielle Callahan (SED’14) is poised to step in as captain and point guard this year. Last season, she came off the bench in support of Alford and Moran, extraordinary guards who logged the most (Alford) and second most (Moran) minutes in BU history. Callahan says she’s been diligently preparing for her new role.
“Playing point guard requires a whole different mind-set,” she says. “You’re really an extension of the coach on the floor, so I’ve been working during the off-season on ball handling and improving my court vision, which are things I didn’t have to use as much last year, but will be critical for me this year.”
Callahan’s skills will be put to the test tonight when the women host Northeastern. According to Greenberg, the Huskies are known for playing at a quicker pace than most opponents and often employ a full-court press, which should prove even more challenging considering that 10-second backcourt violations will be called in women’s games for the first time this year.
“In a lot of ways, the speed of the game will help our younger players gain some experience by forcing them to make quick decisions,” the coach says. “Our whole nonconference schedule is designed to help us improve as we face a variety of talented opponents. They all present different challenges that should really help us prepare for the Patriot League.”
The Terriers know they have to play both sides of the ball to win a championship, and during a recent practice, they were working hard to improve their defense. “We’re a balanced team,” Greenberg says. “We feel we’ve made great strides on defense, and the last few years we’ve been ranked in the top 15 nationally in field goal percentage against. That’s something we take great pride in, and we expect to continue to perform well on that end of the floor.”
The team’s zone defense is being anchored by captains Rashidat Agboola (SMG’14) and Whitney Turner (CAS’14), both of whom have taken on more prominent roles this year.
“Becoming more of a leader was a natural progression for me,” says Turner. “Coach wanted me to get to know all my teammates and integrate the new players into the fold, and now that we know what our goals are, we can all just focus on getting better every day.”
Like their male counterparts, the women will play 13 nonconference games, including bouts with perennial powerhouses UConn, Boston College, and the University of Massachusetts, before opening conference play January 2.
“We have high expectations this year,” Callahan says. “We’re prepared for anything teams are going to throw at us. This team has a whole new look, and it should be exciting for the fans and the players to see how we jell as the season progresses.”
The BU women’s basketball team hosts the Northeastern Huskies in the season opener tonight at 6 p.m. at Case Gymnasium, 285 Babcock St. Tickets are $7 for the general public and $5 for BU students, faculty, and staff. Those with a ticket for the BU men’s ice hockey game vs. Boston College tonight at 7:30 p.m. will receive free admission to the basketball game—show the hockey ticket at the Agganis Arena ticket office (hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or the Case box office starting at 5 p.m. to get the free ticket.
The BU men’s basketball team takes on Northeastern at 12:30 p.m. this Sunday, November 10, at the TD Garden, 100 Legends Way, Boston. By public transportation, take any MBTA Green Line or Orange Line trolley to North Station and walk over to Causeway Street. Tickets to the Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader start at $23. They can be purchased through the Agganis Arena ticket office or online here.3 Comments