By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
After an up and down regular season, the Boston University women’s basketball team hoped for an America East championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament but fell short Saturday night as it lost to University of Hartford 65-53 at Case Gymnasium.
“Well, obviously this is a tough loss for our team, our program. We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, and certainly that we expected,” said BU coach Kelly Greenberg, “but our girls played hard. And as I told my players in the huddle, there is not a group I would rather coach in America than this group of young women. They represent what college athletics should always be about, and I’m proud of every single one of them.”
BU (17-14, 12-4 AE) came out fast and went up 7-3 early in the first half on a 3-pointer by senior guard Kat Briggs, but Hartford (17-15, 11-5 AE) countered with nine straight points to take a 12-7 lead.
The team struggled with shooting throughout the first half, managing only 33.3 percent from the field including 1-of-5 on 3-pointers, but it was able to hang around with the Hawks, who shot 35.7 percent. The Terriers were down just a manageable six points at the half, 27-21.
“Coach always tells us that when we come out [for the second half] the score is 0-0, to try not to think about the lead that they have or the lead that we have, and just go out and be aggressive,” said sophomore guard Chantell Alford.
The Terriers as a whole – and Alford in particular – were only moderately successful in that goal. After going 0-of-7 from the field in the first half, Alford scored a pair of jumpers early in the second half, and minutes later the team went on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 40 apiece.
But in accordance with a theme of the game, Hartford squashed any momentum swings in BU’s favor with a run of its own. The Hawks scored a quick five points in 30 seconds for a lead, 45-40, that it would never relinquish.
BU trailed by as little as six, 53-47, with 5:17 left to play, but the ticking clock and sense of urgency led to several rushed and failed 3-point attempts. The Terriers were forced to foul, and Hartford’s 19-for-24 performance from the free throw line spelled the end for BU.
“They took more shots than us and they went to the free throw line a lot more than us,” Greenberg said. “It’s going to be hard to win any game if they go to the line 24 times and we only go nine.”
When all was said and done, and Hartford solidified the win for the AE crown and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament, the Terriers were left with a several uncharacteristically bad performances. Junior guard Alex Young, who exploded for 37 points in the semifinals, was just 1-for-9 from the field and Alford finished just 3-for-18. Sophomore guard Mo Moran, though, had a game- and season-high 22 points off the bench.
“Chantell was off,” Greenberg said, “but I told her, ‘I’ll take every miss and every make.’ She certainly can’t put everything on her shoulders. She played hard, and she exhausted herself, but again it just went [Hartford’s] way and it didn’t go ours.”
Despite their performance in the finals, both Alford and Young were named to the all-tournament team along with Hartford’s guards Alex Hall and Daphne Elliot, and forward Ruthanne Doherty. Hall was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Unfortunately for Greenberg and the program, falling to the Hawks in the AE championship is nothing new. This was the fourth meeting between the two in the championship since 2005 – Greenberg’s first season as BU’s head coach – and Hartford has taken all of them.
Cashman was also visibly frustrated during the game, and reflected afterwards on what might have been the final game in her collegiate career. The team finds out a possible entry into the WNIT Monday night.
“I think it was just frustration that our team wasn’t playing like I know we can play. It’s just to hard to work every single day with these girls and not be able to bring all the talent that we can,” Cashman said. “It’s just hard.”