Basketball, Sports

Terriers remain lone unbeaten team in AE

In a battle for first place that featured eight lead changes and six double-digit scorers, the Boston University women’s basketball team edged out the University of Hartford, 76-65, last night at Case Gymnasium.

The teams entered the contest as the only remaining undefeated America East squads, and the 313-strong in attendance left having gotten their money’s worth.

Four of BU’s (11-6, 5-0 AE) starting five scored in double-figures, headlined by junior Amarachi Umez-Eronini’s 19 points. The only starting player who didn’t register double-digit points, senior point guard and co-captain Christine Kinneary, scored just six, but dished out a season-high nine assists.

Led by a pair of treys from sharp-shooting senior Kristi Dini, the Terriers opened the game on an 11-2 run.

But in the 1:30 after an Umez-Eronini free throw capped off BU’s run, Hartford junior Diana Delva took over, scoring seven consecutive points to cut the Terrier lead to 11-9.

Delva, a returning America East all-conference second team honoree, leads the Hawks with 12.7 points per game this season. In the first half of last night’s game, her offensive prowess was on display ‘-‘- the 6-foot-2 forward finished the stanza with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting and appeared on the brink of a career night.

BU coach Kelly Greenberg’s gameplan heading into the contest was to double-team Delva in the low post, but the Terriers’ help defense for much of the first half was lackluster, and Hartford’s 18 first-half points in the paint were the result.

Greenberg called a timeout with 14:31 left in the first ‘-‘- in the middle of Delva’s initial scoring run ‘-‘- and was visibly upset by her team’s defensive performance.

‘I feel like we’re a very prepared team, and then all of a sudden, in the heat of the moment, when things were totally ready for us, we act like we’re not,’ Greenberg said about her team’s first-half defensive lapses. ‘I don’t think it’s frustration, but I mean, you want it so badly for the girls. And they want it, too. You just want to start the game and make sure they don’t get something you were ready for.’

The Terriers righted themselves for a time in the middle of the first half, grabbing a 22-15 advantage with a 10-2 run that featured a pair of impressive, Jordan-esque layups by Kinneary. However, the Hawks outscored BU, 17-9, in the half’s final six minutes and went into the break with a 34-31 advantage.

The teams exchanged baskets through the second stanza’s first six minutes ‘-‘- which saw four ties and four lead changes ‘-‘- before a pair of BU scoring runs gave the Terriers an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.

Spurred by 3s from Dini and junior Aly Hinton, BU went on an 11-0 run that left the team with a 53-44 lead with 11:28 left in regulation. Hartford would cut the lead back to six with 6:35 left to play on a jump shot by freshman Ilicia Mathis, but BU responded with a 7-point run fueled by Umez-Eronini.

The 5-foot-10 guard scored five points during the run, including an interception return for an easy layup that would even impress the likes of Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed.

However, as Greenberg pointed out in her postgame press conference, the key in the second half was BU’s vastly improved help defense. Delva scored just four points in the second frame, as Hartford generated a meager eight points in the paint.

The adjustment was exemplified by a defensive effort with just under seven minutes remaining. Following a missed Dini 3, Hartford took possession in the BU zone and worked the ball to Mathis, who was stationed in the center of the paint. Mathis had only Burks-Wiley between her and the basket, and called upon her superior quickness with a spin move around Burks-Wiley’s right. Mathis saw nothing but open air between her and the rim, giving her an easy layup.

That is, until Dini came from the left wing to swat Mathis’s shot into a crowd of panicked BU cheerleaders.

Although the BU lead was only eight points at the time, Greenberg said the denial was a comforting moment for her.

‘After that possession right there, I sat down and thought, ‘Alright, we’re going to win this game,’ even though there was a lot of time left,’ Greenberg said.

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