A step forward on defense is the only thing standing between Boston University and a run at the Patriot League title. The Terriers were picked third in the preseason poll, thanks to their deep well of returning talent — but that talent ranked 317th nationally in defensive efficiency last year. In that light, it was notable not just that they beat Albany on Monday night, but how they did it: BU held the Great Danes scoreless over the final 3:40, sneaking out a come-from-behind, 69-64 victory at Case Gym.
Albany had possession down one point in the final minute. As the visitors entered their set, Evan Singletary came up to catch the ball on the perimeter — but freshman Kyle Foreman read the play, jumped the passing lane and finished with a finger roll on the other end.
“In our game scout, we knew he was going to get the ball at the end of the play,” Foreman said. “I didn’t even know I was going to get the steal, but I fought through it, and that’s what happened.”
On the next possession, pesky guard Cheddi Mosely got a hand on the ball near midcourt, forcing Ray Sanders to knock it out of bounds and ending Albany’s chance to force overtime.
After being torched for 1.18 points per possession in last Friday’s overtime loss to Northeastern (the latest installment of an unfailingly entertaining series), the Terriers surrendered just .94 ppp to the Great Danes. They were especially stifling to Albany’s star-studded backcourt: Singletary, Sanders and Peter Hooley combined to shoot just 6-for-33. “They were the focal point of our gameplan, no doubt,” BU guard John Papale said.
The Terriers trailed by as many as 11 points and took their first lead with 6:44 remaining, engineering their comeback with 10-for-30 three-point shooting (including 5-for-10 from Papale, who had a game-high 21 points). They extended their win streak over Albany to 10 games, though the first in series history to come in non-conference play.
Three more thoughts:
1. Albany’s frontcourt gave its offense balance. One month ago, Travis Charles was not even able to work out with Albany. A juco transfer from Howard County Community College, Charles learned he had a heart condition the day before the Great Danes’ practices started. But he recovered in time to play on Opening Day, and on Monday night, he had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting. came in a three-minute span in the first half: Charles hit three straight jumpers from the high post, forcing BU out of a 2-3 zone, then beat Nick Havener with a hook shot from the block. “It’s definitely a blessing,” he said of being able to play. “I definitely had a good scare. But I cherish moments like these.”
Albany coach Will Brown said Charles still has more to learn defensively, thanks to his delayed start of practice, which is why he spent the final four minutes on the bench. But he wasn’t the only big man with a big game — Mike Rowley scored 15 points, while Greig Stire added five with seven offensive rebounds, helping keep the Great Danes in the game despite their backcourt’s struggles.
2. This isn’t the final version of the Terriers. BU originally expected to return everyone from its 2014-15 rotation — the same continuity it had two years ago, when the Terriers won the regular-season Patriot League title. But Cedric Hankerson tore his ACL in the spring (he is expected to return during the season) and Eric Fanning was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, leaving the team without its top two scorers to open the season. Assorted bumps and tweaks cost Nate Dieudonne, Cheddi Mosely and Blaise Mbargorba practice time near the beginning of the season, making BU much greener than expected in November.
“I feel like we have a lot of room for growth in a lot of areas,” BU coach Joe Jones said. “We made a lot of mental errors tonight — just bad passes, throwing it to a guy’s feet, we had a lot of plays like that. They had 15 offensive rebounds. They beat us to way too many loose balls for a big chunk of the game. There’s a lot of room for improvement for this team, because it’s still growing and learning.”
The silver lining is that more room opened up for young players — namely Foreman, who earned a starting role from day one. As a true point guard, Foreman steadies an offense that was led by an assortment of players stretching outside their traditional roles last season. He opened his career with a seven-assist, one-turnover performance against Northeastern, scoring 15 points of his own; he was key again Monday, posting 15 points, seven turnovers and five assists (though six turnovers).
3. What happened to Albany’s shooters? On the heels of a 1-for-14 performance at Kentucky, Albany went 1-for-13 at Case Gym. Hooley is 1-for-13 for the season, while Singletary is 1-for-8. That won’t last — Hooley shot 34% or better, on high volume, in each of his prior three seasons; Singletary topped 40% last year; and Ray Sanders hit 37%. “I think we’re a pretty good three-point shooting team, but after two games, apparently not,” Brown said.