By: Liam O’Brien
After six games a season ago, the Boston University women’s basketball team was in disarray with a 1-5 record and a tough schedule on the horizon. This season, the polar opposite has occurred, as the Terriers are 4-2 heading into a road tilt against the University of Vermont on Sunday afternoon in Burlington, Vt.
“Vermont has good size and they’re going to be a great test for us,” sophomore forward Nia Irving said.
BU enters Catamount territory having gained victories in each of their last two games, a 61-57 win over Boston College on Sunday and a 78-61 handling of Bryant University on Wednesday. The two wins came in extremely different manners.
The Terriers grinded out their triumph over the Eagles at Case Gym with suffocating defense, holding BC to 33.8 percent shooting from the field and abysmal 3-for-14 shooting from 3-point range. BU struggled offensively themselves, shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from the foul line, while committing 21 turnovers; however, 20 second-chance points paved the way.
The Terriers dominated the glass with 45 rebounds compared to the Eagles 32, as junior forward Naiyah Thompson grabbed 10 boards, and the senior forward combo of Corrine Williams and Kara Sheftic added 15 total.
Against Bryant, the Terriers flourished offensively as they sailed towards a win. BU shot 51.9 percent from the field while making seven 3-pointers. Four players scored in double figures, with Irving leading the way with 16 points and freshman guard Tenisha Pressley scoring a career-best 15.
“I want to continue being a spark for the team,” Irving said. “Contribute things like diving on the floor, taking charges and being a presence not only on the offensive end, but on the defensive end as well.”
Twenty-one of the Terriers’ 31 made baskets came off assists, led by six dimes from freshman guard Katie Nelson. Although she shot just 3-for-11 from the field on Wednesday, Nelson has been a dangerous offensive weapon for BU this season. Against BC, she canned five 3-pointers en route to a 19-point outing. In an overtime win over Delaware on November 19, she exploded for 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go along with seven assists.
Nelson has provided BU with a tremendous 3-point threat after the team lost sharpshooter Sarah Hope to graduation last season. She has connected on 47.4 percent of her 3-point attempts, besting Hope’s 37 percent mark from last year.
One aspect that Nelson can improve on is her turnover rate. The first-year floor general has committed three turnovers per game this season and her teammates have also struggled with the issue. Despite dropping almost 80 points on Bryant, the Terriers coughed up the ball on 18 occasions. In a 15-point loss to University of New Hampshire in their second game of the season, the squad committed 24 miscues.
This is something BU will need to remedy if they wish to breeze past Vermont with the ease with which they handled the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Despite having dropped three straight games to lessen their record to 2-5, the Catamounts made a habit of feasting on opponent mistakes in their two wins.
In an 88-65 beating of Howard University on November 17, Vermont scored 23 points off of 19 Bison turnovers. One game earlier, in a 75-31 drubbing of Norwich College, the Catamounts forced 25 turnovers.
Vermont, who currently sits eighth in the nine-team America East Conference, comes off a 68-56 defeat to James Madison University. The Catamounts received points from just six players, but sophomore forward Hanna Crymble put on a show with 23 points to up her scoring average to 17.4 points per game.
The 2016-17 All-America East Rookie Team selectee scored 37 points against Howard and will be the biggest defensive challenge for the Terriers on Sunday.
The Terriers last faced Vermont two seasons ago in December 2015, losing by a score of 60-45. In the defeat, Sheftic led BU with eight points while Williams finished fourth on the team with five.