The Boston University women’s basketball team capped off its best Patriot League regular season in program history over the U.S. Military Academy with a 62-56 victory Wednesday night.
In a close battle, the Terriers (17-12, 12-6 Patriot League) were able to hold off the Army Black Knights (8-21, 4-14 Patriot League) in the final few minutes to clinch the second seed in the Patriot League conference tournament.
With 30 seconds left, Army had the opportunity to bring the game within one possession as the ball swung to the far side to sophomore guard Natalie Stralkus. Stralkus, who finished with a team-high 16 points, heaved up a 3-pointer that bounced into the hands of a Terrier to seal the game.
BU, led by freshman guard Maggie Pina’s 10 early points, dominated the first few minutes of the game, giving the Terriers a 14-6 lead after just six minutes of play.
Pina and junior guard Katie Nelson combined for 35 points in another strong backcourt performance. Nelson praised the chemistry that has been created between the two and is confident it will carry into the postseason.
“She’s a knockdown 3-point shooter, so whenever I can get her the ball I’m gonna do that and she’s gonna knock it in,” Nelson said. “I have faith in her shooting it and she has confidence in me, so I think that’s really great.”
Although BU was off to a swift start, the Black Knights were able to hang around within striking distance in the first half. The Terriers shot 67 percent from the field, but turnovers and offensive fouls kept Army in the game.
BU head coach Marisa Moseley said the team needs to cut back on its turnovers.
“Those are 10 [times in the first half] or 18 times [total] that we didn’t even get an opportunity to shoot the ball, we’ve really tried to harp on that all year,” Moseley said. “Our goal is to try be 15 [turnovers] or under, it’d be ideal if we could be like in the 10 range.”
Army was able to battle back with a 20-point second quarter and only trailed BU by one point at the break.
Despite Army’s record in the Patriot League, Moseley said the Black Knights really challenged the Terriers.
“They were down and they still did an excellent job,” Moseley said. “They really made us earn this win.”
At half, Pina led all scorers with 15 off of an efficient 5-for-7 from the field, and was aided by freshman guard Sydney Johnson who had seven points off the bench with 3-of-5 shooting. Stralkus racked up 12 points for the Black Knights in the first half.
The second half was closely contested with the two teams trading baskets. Stralkus and sophomore guard Alisa Fallon, who finished with 11 points, kept the Black Knights around, and gave them their first lead of the game in the third quarter, 39-37.
With the Terriers only up six with under two minutes remaining, a BU offensive rebound allowed the Terriers to drain 40 seconds off of the clock and help secure the win.
Moseley said close games help prepare BU for the playoffs.
“Once you get into the tournament, everybody knows everyone, those games are generally really close,” Moseley said. “You’re going to have to be able to make plays, so the fact that our kids have been in that position before I think is big for us.”
With this being BU’s last regular season game, it now looks toward the Patriot League tournament. The team has clinched the second seed in the postseason, allowing them a bye in the first round and a home game in the second. The Terriers will face Saturday’s winner of No. 7 American University versus No. 8 Loyola University Maryland at home on Monday.
Moseley is confident in her team’s abilities to win against any opponent in the league on a given night.
“I think for us, depending on who we match up with, which we won’t know until Saturday, just understanding that we know what we can do,” Moseley said. “We’ve played every team in the league and we’ve either split with them or swept them, so there’s not one team that we haven’t beaten.”
Nelson said BU needs to take things slow and not try to push too hard.
“Staying focused and coming out within the first five minutes really tough and setting the tone for the rest of the game is going to be key for us to win,” Nelson said. “Just taking it five minutes at a time, one half at a time, one game at a time.”