By: Greg Levinsky
WEST POINT, N.Y. — After starting her junior campaign with a blistering scoring streak, Boston University junior guard Payton Hauck suddenly went quiet. After scoring at least 12 points in the Terriers’ first four games, she had just 21 points over the next six.
Hauck appeared determined to reignite her scoring punch to open the Patriot League slate though. And she did just that, hanging a career-high in BU’s conference-opening 60-59 victory at Army.
“I think it was just an intense game and as a team we knew this was the first game of the conference and overall we were just very excited,” Hauck said. “Last year people were saying we were lucky to get this win, but I think we wanted to prove ourselves and that provided a lot of energy for me and the team.”
But it wasn’t just Hauck, as sophomore forward Nia Irving poured in a monstrous 22-point, 14-rebound effort to will the Terriers to victory.
The Black Knights (7-5, 0-1 Patriot League) raced out to an 11-2 lead, scoring the first seven points on an offensive rebound and put back by junior forward Madison Hovren, a triple by sophomore guard Libby Tacka and a 15-foot jumper by senior forward Aliyah Murray.
Head Coach Katy Steding called timeout to rally her squad.
“I just reassured them we were ok,” Steding said. “We expected this pressure and we’ve been working on it.”
Irving and Hauck combined for 10 of BU’s 12 first-quarter points, but faced a 21-12 deficit after the opening frame.
The Terriers (6-5, 1-0 Patriot League) battled back before halftime, scoring eight of the first 10 points in the second quarter. BU took their first lead with just over five minutes left in the first half, 24-23, on a bucket by Payton Hauck after a long pass by freshman point guard Katie Nelson.
“Payton is an exceptionally quick scorer out of transition, and it was definitely a part of the game plan to go to her on the break especially,” Steding said.
“Our team used to have the habit of putting ourselves in a hole, and not being able to dig ourselves out,” Hauck said. “This year, I think, in multiple games we have just shown how tough and resilient we can be.
“We never give up.”
They also forced Tacka, Army’s starting point guard, to commit six first-half turnovers. A microcosm of a tremendous defensive quarter for BU, limiting Army to 2-of-12 from the field and just six points. Army earned a tie for top billing in the 2017-18 preseason poll along with Bucknell, but faltered to BU for the second straight time in West Point.
Both Nelson and Tacka struggled with turnovers, as Nelson had nine and Tacka eight.
Meanwhile, Irving and Hauck each reached double figures in points in less than one and a half quarters, corralling 20 of the Terriers’ first 24. After trading buckets, BU took a 28-27 lead into halftime.
“I encourage [Irving] to work from the high post because of her agility and feel for scoring,” Steding said. “She started a little slow, but really found her rhythm in the second quarter.”
Hauck said she relishes sharing the floor with Irving.
“Nia Irving is a fantastic player in getting herself to the basket and creating opportunities for other players,” Hauck said. “It’s always a ton of fun to be playing on the court with her.”
Hauck’s athleticism and Irving’s strength pushed the Terrier lead to as much as six in the third quarter. Hauck added eight points in the third while Irving secured her second consecutive double-double. Army clawed back to knot it up at 43 going into the fourth quarter. Hovren, the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year, reached double figure points.
Irving and Hauck scored consecutive baskets in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Irving took a charge on Army’s ensuing possession, and senior center Sophie Beaudry scored her first field goal on a sweeping left-handed hook shot to push the Terrier lead to 49-43.
The lead shrunk to one with just over three minutes left on a straightaway triple by Murray, just the second of her career. Army again stormed back and took a one-point lead on a Murray free throw, and the teams traded buckets twice; Irving scored both for BU, for a 60-59 lead with 11.8 seconds to play.
Senior guard Daizjah Morris blitzed to the basket, but was met by a wall of Terrier defenders to seal the win.
“There’s no greater feeling than a big stop or a big score,” Steding said. “It’s always a little euphoric to make those big plays.”