When the ball goes up at Agganis Arena just after 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday (ESPN3.com), it will be pursued by two teams with widely diverging storylines.
The visiting Maine Black Bears are leading the league and come in riding a seven-game winning streak, having just completed a massive comeback on the road against Binghamton, rallying from 22 points down to win 77-74 and improve to 14-7 overall and 8-1 in America East play. Though they finished tied for third last season, the Black Bears have never won the America East conference title.
This year, they aim to change that.
"I've never beat BU at BU, and there's a reason for that," Black Bears senior forward Troy Barnies said. "It's tough down here in Boston. We have to look at this as our conference championship game."
Barnies explained that the Black Bears probably need to treat every game like it's a conference championship game, to help them stay motivated and focused on the task at hand and keep them from looking ahead. The temptation is understandable. The Black Bears have never won the AE tourney, and they've never been to the NCAA tournament.
This year, they've seemingly come out of nowhere to give themselves a shot to change all that.
Meanwhile, the host Boston University Terriers have had a tumultuous season, marred by injury -- second-leading scorer, leading rebounder and 2009 AE Rookie of the Year Jake O'Brien is out for the year with a broken navicular bone in his left foot which will require surgery, the team announced Monday -- and occasional ineffectiveness. It's been hard to see the highs and lows coming. The Terriers lost seven of eight from Nov. 30 to Jan. 2 (bookended by losses to No. 11 Kentucky and to Maine), and then promptly won their next three from Jan. 4 to Jan. 15 (including a W over perennial league power Vermont).
On Tuesday night, Terriers senior John Holland will likely reach a personal benchmark: the Bronx native enters the contest with 1,987 career points. If he scores his league-leading average (18.7) against Maine, he'll become just the second player in BU history to pass the 2,000-point plateau.
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