Basketball, NCAA, Sports

RECAP: Women’s basketball falls short after mid-season hot streak

After starting Patriot League play 6-0, the Boston University women’s basketball team ended its season with a loss to American University in the Patriot League semifinals. 

Despite a season-opening win against the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a thrilling victory over a strong Boston College team, head coach Melissa Graves’ team struggled in the non-conference portion of the schedule with losses to Princeton University, the University of Maine, Yale University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, the University of Rhode Island and Georgia Tech. The team finished with an overall record of 17-14, and a conference record of 12-6. 

WBB recap (game against Army)
The Boston University Women’s basketball team in a game against Army March 7. Despite a strong start to the season, leading the Patriot League standings, the Terriers’ record fell off after playing American University Feb. 12. ELIZA NUESTRO/DFP STAFF

“If you look back at our non-conference, we would turn the ball over like 22 times a game,” Graves said. “And we really cut that down a lot. We focused on it in practice and by the time we got to the Patriot League season, we had learned our lesson from some losses.”

After the strong start to conference play, the Terriers were on top of the Patriot League standings. BU continued to play well until the team traveled to Washington D.C. to play American University on February 12, where the Terriers fell to the Eagles 70-57. From that game on, BU never recovered, posting a 2-3 record down the stretch of the regular season. 

While the team held the first place spot in the Patriot League for a considerable stretch of the season, BU moved down to third place in the conference due to its poor late-season play. The third-place regular-season finish forced the team to play on the road, against American, in the semifinals. 

“Every single win matters because if we could have got the one or the two seed, we’re not in that position anymore to play at a place like American where it is hard to win for anybody in the Patriot League,” Graves said.

After beating the United States Military Academy in a physical quarterfinal matchup at Case Gym, the Terriers were thoroughly defeated by American in the semifinals.  

Free-throw shooting was a challenge for the Terriers all season long. The team’s 66.4% free-throw percentage was the conference’s lowest rate. 

Graves knew free throws would be a problem heading into the season and emphasized free-throw shooting in the team’s practice routine. 

“I knew coming in, taking the job over, they were very poor from the free-throw line, I think they were last in the Patriot League last year as well. So we did free throws every single day in practice,” Graves said. “I made time for them to shoot free throws. We’ve done pressure free throws.” 

Junior guard Sydney Johnson led the team on the court throughout the season. The Powder Springs, Georgia native led the team in points-per-game average with 15.7.

“It was really nice to see Sydney Johnson. I thought she grew a lot, not just as far as scoring the basketball. She took over at the point which she had never before,” Graves said. “She assisted her teammates a lot. I’m really excited about her.”

Coach Graves was also impressed with freshman guard Alex Giannaros. The Brockton native was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team.

“Alex really came along throughout the non-conference. It was a process in the beginning for her. She’s a freshman. She had never played the point either. So, getting into that groove of playing the point, running the team, those sorts of things,” Graves said. “I think she’s built a really good foundation that we can continue to grow upon and what we’re going to work on in the postseason with her as far as how to use ball screens, transition, what are the looks, get her to get that turnover percentage down.” 

Sophomore forward Caitlin Weimer, a transfer from Marist University, made an impact for the Terriers in the low post as she averaged 10.3 points per game, second-best on the team. Junior forward Maren Durant was also a powerful player for BU this season, specifically when senior forward Riley Childs was out.

“Obviously Maren [Durant] and Caitlin [Weimer] were just great this year. Getting to get them in a groove throughout the non-conference where Riley was out. I was able to play the bigs together more,” Graves said. 

Seniors Riley Childs, Chiara Tibbitt and Emily Esposito will all move on from the program. Graves is working with Childs to find her a place to play for her fifth year outside of Massachusetts. 

“She’s from Massachusetts. We had a conversation in the beginning of the year of what she wanted, and I wanted to support her in anything. So I’ve been helping her try to find schools now that she’s interested in but just trying to have an experience outside of Massachusetts, since she’s never left here,” Graves said.

As of now, no other players are planning to transfer out of the program, according to Graves.

The Terriers will add three new players next season — Maine Gatorade Player of the Year Jaycie Christopher, Colorado All-State Player Samantha Crispe, and Anastasiya Semenova, a forward from Russia.

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