By: Alex Smith
With their 3-1 start to conference play, the Terriers have made it clear that they’ve turned the corner and are ready to contend in the Patriot League. They’ve crushed two lesser teams, fought back with 37 fourth quarter points in a comeback win against Lehigh, and dropped a narrow, one-posession game against a scrappy Navy team.
Looking at the standings, the league is pretty top heavy early on with a handful of teams having yet to record a win. That leaves a plethora of teams sitting at 3-1, and in the coming weeks it will be established who has the staying power to compete with preseason favorite Bucknell for the regular season title.
On Wednesday, BU will have a chance to cement themselves behind the league leaders. They’ll face American on the road at Bender Arena, and will have an opportunity to avenge the team who knocked them out of the Patriot League tournament last March.
The playoff encounter was the third of the season between the two teams, after each won at home during the regular season. The way those games played out, though, couldn’t have been more different. At home, BU recorded its’ first win in dramatic fashion, as a potential game-tying three from Cecily Carl rimmed out with seconds to play. At Bender, AU secured their biggest victory margin in over 30 years, crushing the Terriers by almost 50 points. The Eagles won that game 79-33, and the defeat marked the low point for a team that has reached new heights early in 2017.
In the playoffs, the Terriers fell 61-53 which ended their season. That match-up featured BU as a 10 seed and AU as the host at 7, so it is clear this time around that both teams have made strides in the right direction.
The Terriers are coming off a dominant win over lowly Lafayette, but all three of their conference wins have come against teams that have yet to record a victory. This, of course, is no fault of their own, as you can only beat the teams on your schedule in the order they appear. However, this is their first true road test of the season, and in Washington D.C., they can show that these early season results are not a fluke or a result of an easy schedule.
Also at stake is revenge against a team that has been BU’s nemesis in basketball for both teams. The Eagles are led by point guard Maria Liddane, who paces the league in assists per game at 4.3. The junior is adept at getting into the lane, and helps create open looks for her teammates. She’s been crucial in setting the table for AU’s league leading 43% shooting mark.
Naiyah Thompson and Corinne Williams will be tasked with keeping Liddane out of the paint if the Terriers rely on their 1-2-2 zone. If they match up, Courtney Latham will have the tough task of slowing her down. Whatever looks the Terriers utilize defensively, preventing Liddane’s penetration is the key to stopping the Eagles offensively.
Williams was key in BU’s win on Sunday over the Leopards, as the junior recorded a career-high 21 points and hauled in 9 boards. Sarah Hope also continued her hot shooting, scoring 15 points on 4-7 3FG. Hope is now 11-18 on threes in her past two games, and that doesn’t even include the 16 points in a single quarter she scored to open up conference play. Despite Patriot League opponents having already seen her for three full years, she’s saved her best for league play. Hope even scored from way out in Newton against Navy.
How she performs against the league leader in 3FG defense will be a key factor for BU. The Terriers’ bread and butter offensively remains Sophie Beaudry on the low block, and recently Nia Irving has been a focal point as well. When they are playing inside-out basketball, the Terriers look their best, and BU has yet to lose a game in which they score 60+ points this season.
Thus far in the league play, Patriot League teams have had to make a decision: stop Beaudry, or stop the rest of BU and take the punishment in the paint. They’ve elected the former, and as mentioned in the mid-season report, that left a need for other contributors to carry a scoring load. They have, and thanks to that, the Terriers are 4-1 in their last five games.
The Terriers have had four different scoring leaders during that stretch, and their ability to find the hot hand has been huge thus far in the league. Wednesday night, they’ll be tested against a team that has taken league-leading Bucknell into overtime. Bigger still, a chance for revenge against the hated enemy of BU Basketball.
Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game can be viewed on the Patriot League Network.