The future was on display for the Boston University women’s basketball team as freshman forward Maren Durant’s clutch free throws secured their 48-47 win over Lehigh.
The victory moved the Terriers to 11-5 in conference play and 16-11 overall. BU also locked up home court advantage for the Patriot League quarterfinals on March 9. Lehigh fell to 16-11 on the season and now sits in fifth place in the Patriot League with an 8-8 conference record.
With less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the Mountain Hawks nearly had the game locked up in their favor and led 47-44. However, a crafty reverse layup by junior point guard Katie Nelson and a crucial block by Durant on the other end cut the deficit to one point. Durant was subsequently fouled on a post-up, and Lehigh took timeouts before she attempted both of her free throws as a distraction tactic.
“I just tried to stay as focused as I could,” Durant said. “I’ve been in this situation before at the end of the Colgate game and I knew I’ve done it before, I can do it again, so I really just tried to lock in.”
Durant knocked down both free throws with ease, sealing the win for BU. Durant finished the game with 10 points, two rebounds, and two blocks.
“For a freshman to come in and be that calm, cool, and collected at the free throw line in those situations is huge,” head coach Marisa Moseley said.
Freshman guard Liz Shean also contributed quality play off the bench in her first game since December 15. Shean played a career-high 18 minutes and scored five points, electrifying the crowd with a steal and layup in the second quarter. In the third, Shean hit her first three-pointer to put BU up 35-28, its largest lead of the game.
Wednesday’s contest was the first time BU has been able to put its full freshman tandem on the floor since November 26 against Harvard. In addition to Shean, freshman guard Annabelle Larnard made her first appearance in several weeks when she came in during the second quarter.
Nelson, BU’s ever-present leader, steadied the Terriers all evening long with 10 points, two assists, two steals, and two rebounds. In the final two minutes, Nelson stayed calm under pressure and made two key layups to keep BU within striking distance.
“She loves to compete,” Moseley said. “She wants the ball in her hands at the end of the games and big situations. I want the ball in her hands, so I knew that a couple plays we were gonna run, I wanted to make sure she was the guy making the decisions and she made some great moves.”
Throughout the game, BU relied on Nelson, Shean, and freshman point guard Sydney Johnson’s speed to work around Lehigh’s brick wall of a defense. The Terriers often found that off-ball cutting and driving hard to the basket to draw fouls were the best methods for scoring since their three-point shots were not falling. BU finished 1-of-14 from deep.
“On a given night, you’ve gotta find other ways to score,” Moseley said. “Being able to throw the ball inside to Maren, for her to just finally assert herself and be able to catch, turn, and finish without dribbling is huge. It’s a huge step for us, and so to be able to do that when your shots aren’t falling or get to the free throw line or get some offensive rebounds, that was all around just huge for us.”
Although Durant was critical in the final seconds of the game, she struggled with foul trouble for the other 47 minutes. Durant picked up three fouls early on and spent a significant portion of the first half on the bench.
“It’s something that I’m working on,” Durant said. “I want to be aggressive, I’m 6’3”, I’m trying to have a big presence, but it’s that fine line between too aggressive but just aggressive enough.”
A certain level of assertiveness will be required when the Terriers face Bucknell on the road in their next league matchup. The Bison clinched the Patriot League regular season title with a dominant 76-65 win over Colgate on Wednesday. The Terriers will need to attack Bucknell’s lockdown defense with the same intensity they had when they beat Bucknell at home on February 1. BU and Bucknell face off on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
Featured image by Perry Sosi.