GAME NOTES: The Terrier of Boston University can clinch at least a share of the Patriot League regular-season title, if they can get past the visiting Bucknell Bison on Sunday afternoon.
Bucknell, which has enjoyed its own successful run through the PL in recent years, has had a lackluster season in 2013-14, as the team is an even 13-13 overall and 8-7 in conference. The Bison have however, won three in a row to make their league ledger more respectable, and they will try to make amends and play the role of spoiler against a Boston University squad they lost to at home on Jan. 25, 64-61. Bucknell's most recent outing resulted in a 55-53 win at Loyola-Maryland on Wednesday night.
The Terriers have certainly made the most of their inaugural trek through the Patriot League, notching their first 20-win campaign since 2004-05, and they have a chance to claim their first conference crown since winning the America East title back in 2003-04. Boston University has won five straight since falling at home to Lehigh on Feb. 1, with its most recent triumph coming in a 71-62 decision against visiting American University last Wednesday.
With the Terriers' win on Bucknell's home court earlier this season, the all- time series between these two new conference rivals stands even at 3-3.
Despite being the Patriot League's top free-throw shooting team (.758), Bucknell is in the middle of the standings due in part to an overall offensive effort that checks in at just 66.2 ppg. The team, which ranks among the league leaders in 3-point shooting at 39.6 percent, boasts just two double-digit scorers in Cameron Ayers (15.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Chris Hass (10.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg), although Brian Fitzpatrick (9.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg) is close to joining the ranks. Defensively, the Bison do a real nice job of limiting the opposition to only 64.8 ppg, which is the second-lowest yield in the league, and they own the PL's top rebounding margin at +1.8.
Bucknell put forth another sensational defensive effort in their recent win at Loyola, holding the Greyhounds to just 32.1 percent field goal efficiency, which included a mere 3-of-10 showing from beyond the arc. When they had the ball, the Bison made good on 47.1 percent of their total shots, with Ayers, who ranks third in the league in scoring, pacing the unit with 22 points. John Azzinaro and Dom Hoffman finished in double figures as well, netting 12 and 10 points, respectively. Bucknell committed 16 turnovers to only five for Loyola, and the visitors were outscored at the free-throw line, 14-2. However, a 39-29 edge in rebounds clearly helped the overall cause.
Boston University is as strong an offensive squad as there is in the Patriot League this season, the team ranking second by only a few tenths of a point behind No. 1 Army with a scoring average of 72.1 ppg. The Terriers, who have three double-digit scorers on the roster at the moment, are hitting 44.6 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 36.3 percent effort from long distance. They are second in the league in both steals (6.9 spg) and turnover margin (+1.6). Maurice Watson, Jr. (13.6 ppg, 6.7 apg), D.J. Irving (12.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Dom Morris (11.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) spearhead Boston's offensive effort.
Morris tallied 16 points and seven rebounds, and Watson, Jr. added 13 points and seven assists, all of which were needed as Boston topped American last Wednesday by nine points. The Terriers were actually outshot in the game (.460 to .446), but used a massive 40-24 rebounding advantage coupled with a 16-9 edge in points from the foul line to keep their current win streak alive, and the second-place Eagles from closing the gap in the PL standings.
Despite what is considered a down year by Bucknell's standards, this should be a very good game. The Terriers have much to gain, while the Bison are playing for pride and for improved seeding in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. The home teams gets the nod, but it won't be easy.
Boston, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Cameron Ayers tallied 11 points and Ryan Frazier 10 as the Bucknell Bison secured a 63-53 win over the Boston University Terriers in Patriot League play at Agganis Arena.
Brian Fitzpatrick accounted for seven points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Bison (14-13, 9-7 Patriot), as they extended their win streak to four in a row.
Boston (20-9, 13-3), one of the newest additions to the league after coming over from the American East Conference, was paced by Nathan Dieudonne with 13 points, followed by Maurice Watson and John Papale with 12 and 10 points, respectively. The setback snapped what had been a five-game win streak for the top program in the Patriot League.
Boston had just two points through the first nine minutes of the contest and trailed by as many as six points in the half, but battled back late to take a 23-22 advantage into the break, thanks to a pair of free throws by Watson in the final seconds. The Terriers made just seven field goals through the first 20 minutes of action and came up empty on seven tries behind the 3-point line.
In the second half Boston again struggled from the floor (9-of-25), but the defense for the hosts allowed Bucknell to connect on 53.8 percent from the field, en route to the double-digit win.
The meeting featured four ties and seven lead changes, with the Bison overcoming 14 turnovers by controlling the glass, 46-27.