Before Sunday’s game against the Boston University women’s basketball team, University of New Hampshire juniors Candace Williams and Amy Simpson ranked third and fourth in America East scoring with 20.9 and 14.6 points per game, respectively, in conference play.
But in a 75-53 blowout victory at Lundholm Gymnasium that extended their program-best winning streak to 12 games, the Terriers did something no opponent had done all year ‘-‘- hold both Williams and Simpson to single-digit scoring. Williams finished with eight points on 2-of-8 shooting, while Simpson netted a lone 3-pointer and shot an abysmal 1-of-10 from the field.
‘We were prepared. We want to be the most prepared team in the league, and our girls have done a great job of that,’ BU coach Kelly Greenberg said. ‘We just kept them to their weaknesses. Simpson likes to go left, but we didn’t let her go left. And we know [Williams] really wants to go baseline, but we didn’t let her.
‘I thought we did a great job of being ready for those two. And if they only scored single digits, then we did a more wonderful job than I thought we did.’
Seniors Kristi Dini and Jesyka Burks-Wiley carried the torch for BU (17-6, 11-0 AE) on offense. Dini led all scorers with 20 points and matched a career high with six treys. Burks-Wiley, who was named the America East Player of the Week for the fifth time in seven weeks yesterday, recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
‘In our offense, and on this team, everybody’s good,’ Dini said. ‘Everybody’s a scorer, and the defense has to worry about every single one of us. So, if you’re taking away Jes, I’m open. If you’re taking away me, [senior guard] Amarachi [Umez-Eronini] is open. Playing with these girls, it’s a different person every game. But we’re always gonna get shots, and one of us is always gonna finish.’
Sparked by back-to-back trifectas from Dini and junior forward Aly Hinton (11 points) in the game’s sixth minute, the Terriers jumped out to an early 17-9 lead. The Wildcats (6-19, 4-7) fought their way back, though, and with 5:02 left in the first half, Williams put back an offensive rebound to give UNH a 24-23 lead.
But Dini answered immediately with a 3 from NBA range that ignited a 15-2 BU run. With 2:40 remaining in the half, senior point guard Christine Kinneary tallied one of her three steals and sent Burks-Wiley down the court for a layup, making it 30-24. Freshman Alex Young sunk a trey from the left wing on BU’s next trip down the court to up the lead to nine.
Half a minute later, Kinneary spun off the back of her defender, and Burks-Wiley hit her with a nice backdoor pass for an easy 2. Kinneary capped off the game-changing run with an old-fashioned 3-point play after being fouled on a layup to give BU a 38-26 lead.
‘We just started pushing it,’ Greenberg said of the end-of-the-half run. ‘We went from like the 14 to the 17-minute mark with Christine just walking the ball up the court and calling half-court offenses. And [UNH] was kind of starting with a zone and then going man on the first pass. So I just said, ‘Christine, let’s just push it.”
The Wildcats failed to get closer than seven for the remainder of the game, and the Terriers delivered the knockout blow in the form of a 12-1 run over a three-and-a-half-minute stretch in the middle of the second stanza. Not surprisingly, that stretch was completed with back-to-back Dini 3-pointers.
‘At the beginning of the game, on her first two 3s, it looked like they were kind of guarding her,’ Greenberg said. ‘And I think, in the past, sometimes when she feels like they’re on her a little bit, she hesitates. But she really came out in today’s game and looked for the 3. And then in the second half, the 3 was open quite a bit because they were collapsing down, so our skip pass inside-out was open.’
UNH was forced to collapse thanks to strong post play from Burks-Wiley and Hinton. In addition to forcing Williams to settle for jumpers on the defensive end, the pair was able to establish a presence on the offensive end, as evidenced by their 29 combined points.
Hinton, who Greenberg said probably won’t be 100 percent for the entire season after two offseason knee surgeries, logged 31 minutes, her most since Jan. 10, and garnered plenty of praise from her coach after the game.
‘I thought Aly played a great game from the get-go,’ Greenberg said. ‘Just making that extra pass and getting it to the most open person on the team. And she was able to knock some shots down early. I said early in the first half that this is a game I don’t want Aly out of, just because of her smarts. She’s just our smartest player out there. She just knows all the little things. She helps people out when they need it and doesn’t help when they don’t need it.’