Almost half of the men’s basketball Terriers are rookies, but don’t let the team’s 3-8 record fool you — they’re not pups. BU’s losses this season have included games against the likes of George Washington, UMass, St. Joseph’s, Rhode Island, and St. John’s. And tonight Holy Cross (8-6), one of the top squads in New England, is coming to town.
Holy Cross has racked up 11 NCAA tournament appearances, including invitations to the dance in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Picked to finish second in the Patriot League this year, the Crusaders will take on the youngest BU team in recent memory at the Case Gym at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on CN8 and can be viewed On Demand immediately following its conclusion.
Why does BU schedule such stiff competition? Is the team a glutton for punishment? On the contrary, says coach Dennis Wolff, such a lofty lineup gives his Terriers resilience by requiring them to play at a high level. “If you look back, even before I was hired — and the entire time I’ve coached here — the strategy has always been to play this caliber of nonconference teams, because it gives our program a little notoriety,” he says. “It helps with recruiting, and it helps prepare our team for the conference games. We’ve never shied away from it. We know it’s a tough nonconference schedule, but that’s what these kids expect when they come here.”
In fact, an overtime session was needed for St. John’s to squeak by BU, 45-44, in the first round of the Aeropostale Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden on December 28, and earlier in the month the Terriers almost pulled off a miracle against UMass in front of 3,101 fans at Agganis Arena. Trailing 56-54 with four seconds left, Wolff called a timeout just before guard Tyler Morris (SMG’10) sank a three-pointer that would have given BU the improbable win. The basket was waved off, and the Minutemen escaped with the victory. “It was one of those crazy plays,” says freshman sensation Corey Lowe (CGS’08). “Coach thought we were getting out of control. He wanted to slow things down and set something up.” Wolff was focused on getting his team a good last-second shot, and Tyler, dribbling the ball at the top of the key, couldn’t find an open teammate. But he hit an incredible three-pointer a split second after both Lowe and Wolff signaled — and were granted — the timeout. “In this business, hindsight is 20-20,” says Wolff. “Obviously, I should not have called that timeout.”
BU has slain basketball giants in the not-too-distant past, however, including Michigan in 2003 and 2004. The Terriers have also come close to upsetting Holy Cross: exactly a year ago, the Crusaders eked out at 57-55 victory over BU, and they barely got by the Terriers in 2003 by a score of 59-57.
To beat Holy Cross tonight, BU will have to reduce its number of offensive giveaways, which caused the Terriers to implode against St. Joseph’s on November 27. BU led the Hawks at the half, 26-25, but succumbed to defensive pressure in the second stanza and ended up with a 55-31 loss. “If we hadn’t turned the ball over so much against St. Joe’s, we would have been in that game until the very end,” Wolff says. “Part of the problem was going into a hostile environment for the first time, with players who had played only four or five college games.”
But now the Terriers are more battle-tested, and they enjoy home-court advantage against Holy Cross, who will see plenty of scarlet in the crowd: the first 500 fans through the doors of Case Gym will receive a free BU basketball T-shirt. Prizes will also be given away, including a weekend package at Hotel Commonwealth, a 30-second shopping spree at Barnes & Noble at BU, and Beanpot tournament tickets. In addition, faculty and staff who bring a BU ID can buy basketball tickets for $5 at the Agganis Arena or Brown Arena box offices on game day and receive free tickets for up to four family members, as well as a food voucher for a free hot dog, small soda, and popcorn. Tickets cost $10 for the general public and $5 for BU students. For more information, click here or call 617-353-GOBU.
Brian Fitzgerald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.