Papale, BU take on Illinois in NIT Wednesday night

Wallingford’s John Papale helped Boston University clinch the Patriot League championship in the regular season, but the top-seeded Terriers were upset in the conference final by American University and, in the process, lost the chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

But the junior will still be competing in the postseason. Papale and the Terriers qualified for the NIT and they open up Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against Illinois at home. The game will air on ESPN2.

“Obviously, we would have loved to have gone to the NCAA Tournament,” Papale said Tuesday. “But hosting a Big Ten school like Illinois is a big step for the program.

The Choate grad helped lead BU to a 24-10 season, averaging 9.3 points. He shot 44 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range.

“It’s a great accomplishment to win the regular season championship,” Papale said. “We were the most consistent team in the regular season. We just came up a little short. I’m proud of the season we had and I feel I played pretty well. I started off slow, but I got better as I got into conference play.”

It initially appeared BU was destined for the Patriot League’s automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Terriers cruised through the league tournament quarterfinals and semifinals with one-sided victories against Layfayette and Army.

Then came the final against American, and BU simply couldn’t get anything going. Despite playing on their home floor, the Terriers missed 16 of their first 19 shots and wound up losing 55-36.

The two teams had split during the regular season.

Illinois enters the contest with a 19-14 mark and a No. 2 seed. BU is the No. 7 seed in the 32-team tournament. The two teams have never met. This is the Terriers sixth NIT appearance.

“We are going to prepare like we have against any other team,” Papale said. “We’ve played UConn, Maryland and St. Joe’s. We are preparing like it’s any other game.”



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