Saturday was Senior Day at Case Gym, and senior forward Nia Irving took advantage of her opportunity to shine. Irving scored a season-high 22 points and grabbed five rebounds, navigating BU out of an early deficit to secure a dominant 71-56 victory over Navy.
With the win, the Terriers have come out on top in six straight contests, skyrocketing the team to a 9-4 record in conference (14-10 overall). Navy drops to just 2-11 in the Patriot League and 7-17 on the season.
Although she spent the last few games coming off the bench while dealing with a nagging knee injury, Irving had no problem returning to the starting lineup and making her presence known in the paint.
“I think she’s done a really good job of putting herself in position to try to be ready and when her name is called, to try to answer that call,” Moseley said.
Senior Vanessa Edgehill was also inserted into the starting lineup for the Terriers after she and Irving were honored in a pre-game ceremony. From the opening tip, Navy showed that it would not be an easy out and traded buckets with BU for the first two periods.
“There’s a lot of emotions going into [Senior Day] and we didn’t have our traditional starting lineup and our rotations were a little bit off defensively,” said head coach Marisa Moseley.
As a result, BU headed into the break with only a 30-27 advantage. Moseley returned to her usual starting five to open the second half, which allowed the Terriers to get back on track on both ends of the floor.
“I think our kids had a little bit more comfort and confidence,” Moseley said. “We talked about at halftime that the team we had been, that we had been building the last five games, we hadn’t shown yet, so we wanted to make sure that we were able to execute and show what we’re capable of.”
The Terriers outscored the Mids 41-29 in the final two quarters. Irving and junior point guard Katie Nelson went 10-for-10 in the second half and combined to score 26 points.
Nelson recently went through a 2-for-22 shooting stretch, but she caught fire against Navy. She scored 16 points, went 4-of-6 from deep, and dished out four assists.
Along with Nelson, Edgehill helped handle playmaking duties. Edgehill handed out two assists and scored five points, including a three-pointer in the fourth that got the crowd riled up.
Not to be forgotten were freshman forward Maren Durant and sophomore forward Riley Childs, who served as reliable anchors for the Terrier defense yet again. BU struggled to contain the Mids early in the game and at the end of the fourth quarter, but Durant was an important factor in helping the Terriers stabilize their rotations.
“Her size definitely helps if guys get by,” Moseley said. “They know that she’s gonna protect the rim for us, but our rotations and our zone have been really good.
“Our kids have committed to talking and communicating, which is half the battle when you’re playing a zone, and the ability for us to move in and out of man and zone and switch things up and keep our opponents on our toes has really helped us.”
Moseley praised Childs’ efforts on the defensive glass as well. Childs secured five rebounds, four of them defensive, in addition to scoring six points.
The Terriers got away with some defensive missteps against Navy, but similar mistakes could cost them big time against Lafayette on Wednesday. The Leopards defeated the Terriers in their first conference game of the season on a buzzer-beater back on January 2. They are led by Natalie Kucowski, one of the most versatile forwards in the league.
Neutralizing Kucowski’s dynamic offensive profile as much as possible will be essential, but Moseley plans to expand her game plan beyond the two-time Patriot League Player of the Week winner.
“She’s gonna get hers, but you can’t let the other guys beat you,” Moseley said. “That’s really gonna be our message because you’re never gonna shut down a great player, and she is a great player.”
BU hosts Lafayette at home on Wednesday, with tip-off scheduled for 6:00 p.m.