By: Andrew Mason
BOSTON — Simply put, it’s not easy to beat the American University Eagles. It’s even harder when you give them 24 of your possessions.
The Terriers did just that on Wednesday night, as American (21-4, 14-0 Patriot League) came into Case Gym and grabbed a 61-54 victory to extend its winning streak to 15 games.
BU (10-14, 5-9 Patriot League) had one of its worst first quarters of the season. Unable to find their rhythm, the Terriers fell down 26-9 after one – BU’s biggest first quarter deficit all year.
American’s 6-foot-3 center, Cecily Carl, had herself a night. The junior racked up 22 points on eight-of-nine shooting, connecting from all three attempts from downtown. Senior Emily Kinneston celebrated her 1,000th career point on Wednesday in a 17-point, six-assist, and six-rebound performance.
“I didn’t feel like we were ourselves,” said BU Head Coach Katy Steding. “I put them back in something that they knew, and we executed defensively a lot better.”
Making these adjustments, BU pieced together an excellent final three quarters on the defensive end, limiting AU to just 35 points during the last 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Terriers continued to struggle protecting the rock in their dribble-drive-and-kick style of play.
“Our offense is built on trying to drive to the rim, so when the defense is packed in, we need to realize that gap is not big enough to go through,” Steding explained. “It’s like trying to fit through the door of the T as it’s closing.”
Last week’s Patriot League Player of the Week, Nia Irving, was questionable to play before tip due to illness. However, Irving decided to play, and came through big time for BU on Wednesday night.
The sophomore tallied 21 points to go with four boards for her fourth game in a row with at least 17 points and four rebounds. Irving continues to be BU’s leading scorer with 13 points per contest.
After a Corrine Williams (three points, five rebounds) layup, the Terriers found themselves down 47-42 with just under seven minutes to go. In a last ditch effort to climb back, an unlikely hero emerged to lead the scarlet and white.
Lauren Spearman, a junior point guard, provided crucial minutes in the clutch for BU in just her sixth appearance this season. The Los Angeles native grabbed two steals through blinding defense, and converted a much needed layup for BU to keep the deficit at six with 1:09 remaining.
“I was just thinking about playing my game, and most importantly making a positive impact defensively,” Spearman recalled. “I wanted to make the most of my opportunity.”
Although it wasn’t enough to pull the Terriers to the win, her 12 minutes gave Case Gym a certain electricity it lacked all night, perhaps even since the new semester began.
“I’m just so glad I was given the opportunity to make an impact and help our team out in a competitive game such as this one,” Spearman said. “It just truly felt amazing.”
With only four games left in the regular season, BU sits in the seventh spot in the league standings. In order to get a first round bye, BU will need to finish inside the top six. Despite Wednesday’s loss, Steding and her squad are optimistic about their postseason chances.
“We just played the number one team who’s undefeated in league, to a standstill,” Steding explained. “We did a pretty good job tonight, we just can’t dig ourselves such a big hole.”
The Terriers have a chance to get back in the winning column on Saturday night in Annapolis, M.D., in a battle with 21-4 Navy. BU dropped a 64-59 decision to the Midshipmen the last time these two teams went at it. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 17 at Alumni Hall.
“This league is wide open this year,” Steding said. “American has separated themselves because they’ve been more disciplined than most teams and they have some really good scorers. But everybody else, on any given night, anybody can beat anybody.”