Basketball, Sports

W. bball looks to avoid letdown at Maine

Of all the obstacles that come along with challenging a top-tier opponent, avoiding the infamous letdown is perhaps the most dangerous.

Such will be the case when the Boston University women’s basketball teams travels to the University of Maine for a 7 p.m. contest tomorrow night.

BU (11-6, 5-0 America East) enters the showdown with the Black Bears (2-16, 0-5) riding high on the heels of a 76-65 statement win against the defending America East champion University of Hartford Wednesday night

The Hawks and Terriers both entered the game undefeated in conference play, with first place and control of the conference on the line. In a hard-fought battle that saw seven ties and eight lead changes, BU came out on top, spurred mostly by the team’s depth of scoring threats.

The Terriers featured four scorers in double figures Wednesday night, led by a 19-point performance from senior Amarachi Umez-Eronini. The 5-foot-10 guard ‘-‘- or ‘the best defensive player in the conference,’ as senior teammate and co-captain Christine Kinneary refers to her ‘-‘- shot 6-of-13 from the field.

The game was, in a way, a breakout scoring performance for Umez-Eronini, who, for the first time, let loose with her jump shot, hitting a number of big 2s and 3s from the perimeter.

Umez-Eronini can at least partially credit her open space to the other offensive threats that surround her. BU boasts one of the best interior scorers in the league in senior co-captain Jesyka Burks-Wiley. The Kansas City, Mo., native leads the squad with 17.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, including an astounding 21.7 points per contest against America East foes.

Of course, if opponents make defending the interior their M.O., the Terriers will kick the ball outside to sharp-shooting senior Kristi Dini. Dini, averaging 12.2 points per game, has shot .380 from beyond the arc, third best among America East players with at least 50 attempts. Additionally, her 3.0 treys per game heading into the Hartford game tied her for the third most 3s per game in the country.

Focus your guard play on Dini ‘-‘- and dare to leave just one defender between Kinneary and the basket ‘-‘- and you set yourself up to be beaten in much the same way as Binghamton University was on Jan. 14.

The Bearcats insisted on focusing their defense on Dini, and Kinneary ‘-‘- one of the best ball-distributors in the country ‘-‘- made them pay with her driving game. The Plainedge, N.Y., native drove to the lane possession after possession in the first half, racking up 18 points as the Terriers took a 49-33 advantage into the half.

Somehow manage to tame that three-headed monster, and you leave the ball in the hands of Umez-Eronini and junior Aly Hinton, both of whom have proven themselves as quality offensive players. Umez-Eronini has improved her offensive play, scoring 10.2 points per game after averaging 8.4 points per contest last season.

Meanwhile, Hinton, whose season got off to a slow start following two off-season knee surgeries, proved her explosiveness when she came off the bench to score 35 points in a Nov. 19, 2007 victory over Northeastern University.

Combine all those threats with BU’s conference-best .727 free-throw percentage, and you begin to understand the headaches the Terriers must give to opposing coaches.

‘If you take one player out, then another player is going to score,’ Dini said following Wednesday’s contest. ‘They can’t defend us all.’

The daunting task of handling the BU offense falls on Maine’s shoulders tomorrow night. But considering the Black Bears’ humble record, negative 17 scoring margin and lack of dangerous scorers ‘-‘- Maine averages just one double-digit scorer (Brittany Boser, 10.4 points per game) ‘-‘- all add up to what should be an easy BU victory.

Of course, there’s always the threat of that notorious letdown after a big game.

Last year, after Dini capped off a 19-point second half with a buzzer-beating miracle shot from half court to beat Hartford, BU’s concentration slipped as they dropped a 59-55 decision at Binghamton, who came into the game at a less-than-intimidating 2-11.

Count on Greenberg and her veteran squad to be wary of falling into another trap like last season, and expect that the BU coach’s emotional on-court personality will quickly snap the Terriers out of any potential lulls.

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