Stifling BU defense ends women’s basketball season in Patriot League Semifinals
Eagles ousted in the same building they fell last year
The American University women’s basketball team (7-4) fell to Boston University (12-2) in the Patriot League Semifinals 72-51, ending the Eagles wild year in the same building where they fell last season. Though the Eagles had hoped to reverse last year’s 46-44 loss in the quarterfinals, they were unable to punch their ticket to the Patriot League Championship game.
BU’s staunch 2-3 zone became AU’s kryptonite throughout the contest, as the Eagles found themselves on protracted scoreless stretches in the second and third quarters. BU allowed the fewest points per game in the Patriot League this year and held AU to its lowest scoring output of the season.
“I thought we started the game okay and ended the game fine, it was the second and third quarters that just took the wind out of our sails,” head coach Megan Gebbia said. “I wish it could have been better, but I do think it has inspired this group … so hopefully it lights a fire under them as we head into the summertime and get better.”
As they did over the weekend, eurosteps from junior guard Emily Fisher and blocks from sophomore forward Karla Vres ignited the Eagles early on. AU couldn’t get much going toward the end of the first quarter, but Fisher provided enough as a zone-breaker to make it 16-14 after one quarter. That was the last time AU had real hope in the game.
The second quarter couldn’t have gone any worse for AU, and ultimately, their spiral prevented them from ever making a serious comeback in this game. After one quick AU bucket, BU went on a 17-0 run. After outscoring AU 26-9 in the second quarter, it ended the half up 42-23.
“When you get a deficit that big, it just deflates you as a group,” Gebbia said.
The Eagles came into the game as winners of six straight games but knew the Terriers would present challenges. Before the contest, Gebbia cautioned that BU is difficult to prepare for because it runs so many different sets on offense and plays as a cohesive unit on defense. AU would also be wary of the Terriers perimeter shooting, which caught fire in the quarterfinals with a season-high 13 3-pointers. But five of their first seven attempts fell through the net — four of which came from BU sophomore guard Sydney Johnson — and each of which came as a proverbial dagger into AU’s title hopes.
Johnson led the Terriers with 17 first-half points and finished with a career-high 23 in the game as she shot 5-6 from deep. Junior guard Emily Esposito also added 16 points off-the-bench.
“Esposito and Johnson played one of their best games. We took away the other three, so we took away [Katie] Nelson for the most part, [Maggie] Pina and [Maren Durant],” Gebbia said. “So we went in saying we needed to do that and then the other two kids stepped up and we just didn’t have an answer for them.”
The zone forced AU’s upperclassmen to make crisp offensive decisions, but even when they did, the shots didn’t fall. AU junior guard Jade Edwards led the Patriot League in scoring and was typically the vessel through which AU got most of its offense going during the regular season. But BU threw everything it had at Edwards Thursday, holding her to a season-low six points and bodying her up all game. Fisher was the lone Eagle to overperform her usual output, as she finished with a team-high 16 points.
AU’s offense started to click at the start of the third quarter, but the Terriers continued to match their opponent shot-for-shot. And as soon as the Eagles heated up, BU cooled them down. After a few shots went their way, they had another six-minute scoreless stretch in the last six minutes of the third quarter and entered the final frame down 57-30.
“You just have to tip your cap to them, they played well and they shot the ball better than they normally shoot it,” Gebbia said. “When you’re on the home floor and they’re shooting that way, it’s tough to beat teams.”
Though AU put a solid final frame together, the deficit it had built for itself in the preceding three quarters was too much to return from.
After the game, Gebbia said that the junior class would take the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA offered, which means their AU careers are extended through two more seasons.
This was the last game of senior guard Indeya Sanders’ career. She made her mark on the Eagles’ as a suave facilitator and staunch defender, earning an All-Defensive nod last season.
“We were crying a little bit in the locker room,” Gebbia said. “She’s just a steadying force, like she’s just one of those kids who is selfless, that believes in the system … She’s the first real local kid that we’ve offered and signed that believed in us, and to me, that means everything. I’m glad we can win her at least one championship. If we beat BU next year, it’s going to be for Indeya and for Katie [Marenyi] and all those people that BU ended our seasons with.”
BU will go on to face Lehigh in the Patriot League Championships as the Eagles get set for a long off-season.