If there was one thing that remained constant Monday for the Boston University women’s basketball team, it was that it was continuously adapting to its opponents in its overtime win over Harvard University at Case Gymnasium.
The 68–61 victory is largely attributed to the versatility of the Terriers (8–3), both on and off the ball. In a game where the lead switched hands 11 times before overtime even started, both teams had to continuously alternate offensive and defensive strategies just to stay in the contest.
First, it was Harvard (7–3) shutting down BU’s game from beyond the arc. Senior guard Chantell Alford, the Terriers’ highest scorer with 18.9 points per game during the 2012–13 season, scored none of her three opening attempts from distance.
In response, the Terriers went inside. Junior forward Rashidat Agboola scored the team’s first basket in the paint.
Then, Harvard began to stop BU’s inside game with blocks coming primarily from sophomore Temi Fagbenle.
The Terriers countered by going back to the outside. Senior guard Kristen Sims was the first to score a 3-pointer of her own with over 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
“We just had to keep penetrating and kicking,” Alford said. “They were pressuring the guards a lot … so it was just penetrating and kicking and finding that open person.”
As the game progressed, the alternation of offensive focus on either distance shooting or inside power game never stopped. All that stayed the same for the players was the knowledge that play styles would change just as they began to feel comfortable.
“[The biggest part of the offense] was definitely making big [strategic] adjustments and executing well,” said senior captain Danielle Callahan.
The BU defense saw just as much change, if not more, than its offense.
The Terriers implemented all types of coverage before the final buzzer sounded, ranging from a tentative zone coverage early on when the score did not mean much, to a full-court press in the second half when being down by four points seemed like a guaranteed loss.
Late in the first half, BU led by seven, its largest lead of regulation play. To stop Harvard from coming back, BU had to contend 3-point attempt after 3-point attempt.
However, in overtime, Harvard stuck to the inside shot, and BU had to compact in an effort to keep its lead.
The Terriers spread and compacted. They played zone and man coverage. They did all of it sporadically in response to the Crimson’s strategy, and they did it effectively.
“Our defense has been outstanding, in all honesty,” said BU coach Kelly Greenberg. “We made a lot of changes throughout … and I just credit [their effectiveness] to our players’ focus.”
Intensity of play changed repeatedly, as well. Harvard controlled the game on offense early on. BU found its stride though, grabbing a comfortable lead with just over seven minutes left in the first half.
However, Harvard stole that lead back, extending it to nine points in the early parts of the second half.
BU erased the deficit, but it was only after losing and regaining the lead numerous times.
“I thought the game got hectic for a little while, but we were able to calm down and bounce back,” Greenberg said. “That was definitely one of the biggest keys in the game.”
Not even history stayed the same.
For three straight seasons, BU’s rival across the river has defeated the Terriers in every matchup between the teams. They ended that streak in 45 minutes. The aggregate record between the two teams now sits evenly at 14 wins apiece.
“I’m really happy for our seniors,” Greenberg said. “We were up on them the past couple of years by a lot, and then we lost the games. I know they really wanted this one … they care so much, and it really goes a long way.”