While the Boston University women’s basketball team could not overcome the University at Albany and win its 14th straight game, the Terriers (17–4, 7–1 America East) resumed their winning ways by defeating the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Saturday and have regained a bit of momentum to ride as they face the University of Hartford.
Junior forward Rashidat Agboola and senior guard Chantell Alford combined for 39 points to stick the dagger in the Retrievers (6–14, 2–5 America East). The win gave BU coach Kelly Greenberg a milestone 250th career win as a head coach.
After a week off, the Terriers seek to win their second straight game against another America East foe, this time taking on the Hawks (13–7, 4–3 America East).
“I think the timing is perfect for us,” Greenberg said. “It gave us three days off. Good time for us preparing against our conference, and especially a game against one of our rivals.”
Hartford is a familiar adversary for the Terriers, as the two met earlier this season on Jan. 5. In that game, BU defeated the Hawks in a low-scoring affair, taking the victory by a score of 45–39.
Although most of the Terriers had trouble scoring, Agboola did not have a problem. She posted a career-high 26 points in the contest while shooting 52 percent from the field. As a team, the Terriers shot 35.4 percent. The BU defense held strong, however, only allowing 15 field goals. It held the Hawks to a mere 30.6 percent shooting.
“The first game really doesn’t mean much,” Greenberg said. “ Both teams battled and played tough.”
Although Hartford dropped that game against the Terriers, the team won four out of its last five, staying in the upper ranks of the America East Conference. The Hawks are currently in third place behind Albany (16–3, 8–0 America East) and BU.
“They’re a great team,” Greenberg said. “They’re extremely competitive and well-coached.”
Having shown especially strong play at points in the season, Hartford might pose a threat to BU’s chances of taking the America East regular season title. The Hawks’ offense has been one of the best in the conference, scoring 56.3 points per game while shooting at 39.3 percent — third best in the conference in both categories.
This offense is led in large part by forward Nikkia Smith and guard Amber Bepko. Smith is tied for the team-best with 10.8 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the field. She is one of the best at the charity stripe as well, sinking 82.5 percent of her free throws.
Smith has also been impressive on the offensive glass, grabbing 31 offensive rebounds. During the Jan. 5 game, Smith was the Hawks’ top performer, gathering 16 points while grabbing nine rebounds, falling just short of a double-double.
“[Smith] has some tough post moves,” Greenberg said. “We will have to talk about it. But we can’t just talk about her. We have to focus on all of their key players.”
Bepko has also been strong this season when she is in the lineup. The 5-foot-9 guard is tied with Smith at 10.8 points per game. Bepko battled an ankle injury for about a month and missed seven games for the Hawks, which included the matchup against the Terriers.
Since returning from the injury, Bepko has played as strong as she was before. Against the University of New Hampshire, she dropped 17 points, nine of which came from behind the 3-point arc. She also went 6-for-6 from the foul line.
Along with a strong offensive unit, Hartford also shows strong numbers on defense. The Hawks hold opponents to an average of 55.3 points per game. Their most obvious threat to the Terriers is 3-point defense.
While the Terriers have shot an America East-best 36.4 percent from behind the arc, the Hawks are one of the toughest teams to score the three on, allowing just 29.7 percent of 3-point attempts to go in.