A final shot for BU

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A final shot for BU

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

The Boston University's men's basketball team is used to high expectations. This could be the season when the Terriers live up to them.

On Sunday afternoon, fourth-seeded BU beat No. 1 Stony Brook, 70-63, to advance to the America East final. It will be the first trip to the title game for the Terriers since 2003 -- surprising, considering that BU has been the conference favorite in each of the last three seasons. Yet year after year the Terriers failed to secure an NCAA tournament berth, getting bounced by Albany in league playoffs in 2007, by Hartford in the semifinals in '08, and then by UMBC in the '09 quarterfinals.

Last season's disappointing finish contained a silver lining that shines brightly now.

Many players who suffered the last three knockouts are getting yet another chance. The graduated Matt Wolff (30 starts, 5.2 rebounds per game, 94 assists, 41 steals) was the only player who departed after last season. Instead of having to rebuild the roster for another shot at the title, the majority of the team returned for a chance at redemption.

Tyler Morris is one of them. The fifth-year senior has been on a see-saw of setbacks and strengths throughout his time at BU. First he injured an ankle before his first season. When he returned in 2007 he won America East Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-Conference honors. More injuries, including a torn ACL last year and a hurt shooting hand this year, have held him back.

But as Morris says, adversity only gives the Terriers cause to fight harder.

"We cant sit around feeling sorry for ourselves anytime something bad happens," he said. "You can lay down and give up or you can get up and fight. When things go against us, how are we going to react?"

Athletic director Mike Lynch reacted to the letdowns by bringing in a new head coach. Enter Patrick Chambers. As a former assistant to Jay Wright at Big East powerhouse Villanova, Chambers seemed the perfect fit to inherit this lot of perimeter players, whom he could insert into a 'Nova-style dribble-drive offense. He also knows well both the pleasures and pressures of winning.

Which is exactly what Boston University is doing.

The Terriers enter the title matchup against Vermont having won eight of their last nine. The streak started with a decisive 69-47 win over New Hampshire on Feb. 4 and carried BU to a 15-5 conference record. Senior guard Corey Lowe and junior forward John Holland join Morris as starters. More specifically, they provide a punch of star power.

Lowe is BUs all-time leader in 3-pointers (297) and third best scorer (1,729 points). "Probably one of the premier playmakers to ever come through Boston University," said teammate Holland.

Holland is deserving of high remarks himself. Last season he joined Lowe on the list of All-America East First Team selections and is likely to repeat the honor this year with a league leading 19.9 points per game average.

The duo's leadership has helped Chambers through the tumults of a first-year transition.

"I knew it was one of my responsibilities coming in," Lowe said, "because I was a captain last year and there was a coaching change. It wasnt exactly the smoothest of things. Weve had our ups and downs, but its worked out pretty well."

If BU's unimpressive looking 3-9 start is one of the 'downs', it's actually not as bad as it seems. The Terriers had a tough out-of-conference introduction to the year. Four of their losses came to Kansas State, then-No. 24 Georgia Tech, Harvard, and top-25 flirt Connecticut (a game Lowe missed because of inflammation in his right foot). These are teams who are all within the top 95 of the RPI index.

It's the upside of last nine games that matter now, anyway. And Lowe in particular can claim that things are definitely clicking for Boston University.

The senior has scored 50 points in the team's first two postseason games. On Sunday he notched a game-high 24, as well as six rebounds and five steals. Senior forward Carlos Strong chipped in with 15 points and eight boards, while Holland and returning AE Rookie of the Year, Jake O'Brien, each added 10.

So it has come down to UVM. The Catamounts are all that stand in the way of the title that has eluded BU for the last three seasons. Saturday's championship will be a rematch of the last America East final the Terriers played in, when they got nipped by Vermont, 56-55. It will also be the third meeting between the two teams this year. The 'Cats swept the regular-season series, winning 78-58 at home on Jan. 17 and eekeing out a 76-75 victory over the Terriers at Agganis Arena on Feb. 9.

Win or lose, even appearing in the conference final is a step forward for the Terriers. But ask Corey Lowe or any of the nine seniors and they'll tell you that they've had enough of setbacks, letdowns, and losing.

This time the Terriers expect to win.
Mary Paoletti is on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

BOSTON – The last 2 1/2 games for the Celtics have come without Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and it has certainly been a factor in Boston trailing Cleveland 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into tonight’s must-win for the Celtics to keep their season alive.
 
There have been rumors that if the series with Cleveland were closer, maybe that would lead to a return to the floor for Thomas.
 
“No. No way. He’s done [this season],” Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show this morning.
 
Ainge said there’s still swelling in the hip, and it probably won’t go down enough for doctors to make a determination whether surgery is needed for another couple weeks.

Thomas was in New York City earlier this week visiting a hip specialist. He's expected to consult with at least two more before making a decision as to what's the best course of treatment.
 
“Everybody agrees if there’s anything that needs to be done to it surgically, it helps...if the inflammation goes down,” Ainge said. “The recovery [time] would be quicker.”
 
The injury initially occurred on March 15 against Minnesota.
 
Ainge said he didn’t become too concerned about it until after Thomas re-aggravated it in Game 6 of the second-round series against Washington and was questionable to play in Game 7.
 
“I was worried going into the Cleveland series that he was nowhere near himself in Game 1 or 2,” Ainge said. “And Game 2 in the second quarter it was clear he was in a lot of pain. No way we could go out and allow him to play the second half.”
 
Boston was blown out 130-86 in Game 2. In the first half, Thomas had two points and six assists, while missing all six of his shots from the field.
 
Ainge said there was “a lot” of irritation and inflammation around the affected joint in Thomas' right hip.
 
“It had gotten worse from the MRIs he had before,” said Ainge, who added that it would have been “irresponsible to allow him to play anymore.”
 

Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

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Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

FOXBORO -- Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium gave reporters their first opportunity to see both Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore on the field at the same time.

Once Gilmore signed with the Patriots earlier this offseason, there was no guarantee he'd actually team up with the 27-year-old in his fourth season out of West Alabama. But Butler wasn't given an offer sheet by the Saints or anyone else, he wasn't traded, and now together they make up one of the most talented cornerback duos in the NFL. 

"Um, nothing much really," Butler replied when asked for his initial reaction to the Gilmore deal. "Nothing much really. We got a better player. We got another player. We got another good player on this team. Anything to help the team win, I'm down with."

Depite the fact that Gilmore is the one who received the big-money contract from the Patriots earlier this year, Butler had nothing but good things to say about his teammate following Thursday's workout. 

"He brings the size and the coverage skills," Butler said. "One of the best guys in the league. Very underrated. [He's] come in, head down, working hard. Just trying to build off each other no matter what."

Butler acknowledged that the corner group, which also includes Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones, has some work to do when it comes to their communication, but he indicated he'll be happy to chip in wherever he's needed. The Patriots could use some help in the slot following Logan Ryan's departure to Tennessee, and Butler said he'd be open to playing inside.

"Wherever they put me, I'm gonna play that role," he said. "I'm ready to play the slot if that's what it is."