HAMDEN, Conn. – There was some bad Sunday afternoon, certainly, but in this holiday season, let’s focus on some good to start, shall we, namely Boston University senior John Papale.
Papale is only 120 miles away, so it’s hard to call a game against Quinnipiac a “homecoming”, but he did have his own cheering section Sunday, having grown up in nearby Wallingford (same hometown as former Sacred Heart point guard Phil Gaetano). He struggled for much of the afternoon, going 2-7 from three-point range, but in the end, he shared the team lead in points (13) and had some key plays down the stretch to seal the Terriers’ come-from-behind 64-57 victory, their second straight to draw even at 5-5 on the season.
If you follow the Patriot League closely, you likely know Papale, who was a key member of the 2013-14 regular season champs, shooting 53.1% from behind the three-point arc (43-81) in conference play (he was also an All-America East rookie selection as a freshman). Last season, with Papale one of the few pieces left to try for a repeat, was a little rough. Papale finished the campaign ninth in the nation in minutes played (setting a BU record), and still shot a respectable 36.7% from three-point range while having one of the lowest turnover rates in the conference, but averaged only 9.2 points per game as the Terriers went just 13-17 and lost to Lafayette in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals.
One of the highlights of 2014-15 for Papale was draining a buzzer-beater to beat Quinnipiac at Case Gym, made sweeter because his brother Mike was the Director of Basketball Operations for Quinnipiac. But what was most important was that his brother is still alive.
Mike was readying for a potential college career in 2006 when at 17, he had a heart attack due to hypertropic cardiomyopathy, the same ailment that contributed to the deaths of Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. But thanks to quick acting first responders and a defibrillator, Papale survived with just a two-week stint in the hospital. His playing career was over, but it obviously was close to being much, much worse.
And so Mike – now an assistant at nearby Southern Connecticut State under Scott Burrell – was in attendance Sunday to promote his new website: inaheartbeat.org, which seeks to raise funds and awareness to get more automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places and other places.
The Terriers (5-5) were picked third in the Patriot League, but look like they will play the season without first-team All-Patriot preseason selection Cedric Hankerson, who is expected to take a medical redshirt rather than rush back from an ACL injury in the spring. Fellow starter and senior Justin Alston has missed the last two games with an injury as well and his return is uncertain.
John’s future after this season and graduation is also uncertain, he graduates in May with a degree in international relations and although he could have transferred without sitting out, decided to stay at BU for one more shot. One thing we’re sure of for both John and Mike, is that there will be a future, something we can take for granted while analyzing Xs and Os on a nightly basis.
“It was a lot of fun,” Papale said. “I had a lot of family here, last time I’ll probably play in this area. It was a great moment and to get the win was great, too.”
There were some things to learn from TD Bank Sports Center, where Santa was among the crowd:
- There was the new-look Quinnipiac
As it did Friday, the new Quinnipiac, the ones who go out and force turnovers and get out in transition, led the way for the Bobcats, who opened up a 45-32 lead with 15:05 left in the game. The method was slightly different, instead of draining threes, Gio McLean just decided to take over the game. He had 16 in the first half, but was helped on a 15-2 run to start the second half by James Ford, Abdulai Bundu, and a big three-pointer from Daniel Harris.
And the numbers were quite astounding. Quinnipiac was actually getting outrebounded 23-15 at halftime, with only four offensive, but forced 10 turnovers. For the contest, the Bobcats (4-4), who were 351st and dead last nationally at both forcing turnovers and getting steals the last two seasons (and 335th and 345, respectively, in 2012-13), harassed Boston into 17 turnovers and had 10 steals. Before forcing 18 turnovers earlier this season against Vermont, you had to go back to 2012 to find a number that high for both (when Dave Johnson collected four of Quinnipiac’s 10 steals against American).
“We have really good players, we have really good kids, our kids are tough and they play really hard,” Moore said. “We have to look at our stuff and how we’re running it, and maybe how we teach it and coach it, maybe change what we’re emphasizing in practice because we need more offense and more conviction, will, toughness, and discipline offensively. Maybe we have to get more creative with our schemes.”
Could this be a way forward for Quinnipiac because …
2) The old Quinnipiac arrived down the stretch
To be fair, the Bobcats were actually 61st in offensive efficiency two seasons ago when they went 20-12 (and 14-6 in the MAAC), largely due to solid three-point shooting and a relatively low turnover rate. And, of course, those offensive rebounds. But last season, there were a few losses that looked like Sunday, where Quinnipiac had bad offensive possessions and missed a lot of shots.
Sunday, Joe Jones decided his best option was to take McLean out of the game as much as possible, double-teaming him 30 to 40 feet from the basket and Quinnipiac could not take advantage. The Bobcats finished the second half with 15 offensive rebounds (yes, just in the half), but were just 11-31 from the field and a putrid 3-12 from the free throw line with 11 turnovers. Quinnipiac is currently 319th in offensive efficiency, 304th in eFG% (44.5%), and 324th in turnover rate (22.2%). Everyone knows that will have to improve.
“We’re asking too much out of Gio right now,” Moore said. “He’s a scoring point guard right now, and mostly everything we do is initiated by him. It got to the point where they were running and jumping at him in the open court, which is a risky move, but it worked. We need more guys to claim minutes and play well so I can do more things with him and move him on the chess board to different places.”
3) Terriers Patriot League contender?
It’s really hard to get much of a read on Boston University at this point because they’ve used so many different lineups and juggled injuries, suspensions, etc. Certainly in the second half, while Jones extremely animated, the Terriers looked like they could compete with anyone in the Patriot League, even being very competitive on the boards, which has been a bit of a problem in the first part of the season (Eric Fanning, who missed the first six games, had 10, and Nathan Dieudonne – who played 31 minutes off the bench – added six). The good news for the Terriers is, as we found out last season, they fit right in with the rest of the unpredictable Patriot League, where the difference between first and last might be smaller than any other conference in the nation.
“It’s been a tough non-conference season,” Papale said. “We’ve had a lot of road games, and played a lot of teams that win in the tournament last season. For us, with injuries and stuff, we just need to find our groove and hopefully by conference play, we’ll have some consistency and gel as a team.”