Women’s Basketball: BU comeback falls short in first loss of season against Rider

Featured image by Jacob Ireland

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

If nothing else, it felt like a reminder that BU can not solely rely on their superstar forward.

Senior forward Caitlin Weimar — the preseason Patriot League Player of the Year and reigning Player of the Week — was battling an illness and didn’t enter the game until midway through the third quarter. Boston University women’s basketball (3-1), forced to start sophomore forward Anete Adler in her place, trailed 39-30 away at Rider University (2-2) on Saturday in what was their worst performance of the season.

“I was hoping for a better effort considering how down we are with sickness,” BU head coach Melissa Graves said.

When Weimar did enter the game, likely because Graves felt her hand was forced, the improvement was immediate. Weimar played 15 total minutes and didn’t check back out after checking in. Trailing 46-33 after three quarters, BU opened the fourth quarter on an 18-2 run — culminating with consecutive layups from Weimar — to take a 51-48 lead with less than three minutes to play.

“I thought when (Caitlin) stepped into the game, that got us going a little bit,” Graves said. “But I (also) thought it was, finally, the shots were falling.”

The Terriers shot just 32 percent from the field in the first three quarters. Junior guard Alex Giannaros, BU’s second-leading scorer behind Weimar, scored just five points in the first 30 minutes on 2-for-12 shooting. 

But in the fourth quarter, with Weimar on the floor, the Terriers shot at a 53 percent clip.

For a moment, it looked like BU would escape. They held a two-point lead as Rider called a timeout with 19 seconds left. But after an errant defensive possession from the Terriers, senior Bronc forward Sophie Bruintjes drained a wide-open three to give Rider a one-point lead with three seconds left.

BU was given a life jacket, as Bruintjes fouled Weimar on the ensuing inbound and sent the Terriers’ superstar to the line with a chance to win the game. 

But Weimar, a 72 percent free throw shooter on the season to that point, missed both shots. BU eventually dropped their first game of the season 58-55.

A cruel ending, but, perhaps, a critical lesson learned.

“I talked to them after the game, just about the belief in themselves,” Graves said. “That we have enough in the locker room, without Cait having to come in.”

Getting the 12 Terriers after Weimar to believe will be a process. Six of them are freshmen, two of whom started on Saturday, another two of whom came off the bench. Graves has said that Adler, tasked with filling the hole that Weimar left, is “basically a freshman,” too, as she played just 45 minutes in her first collegiate season at the University of Rhode Island last year.

Adler and freshman guards Aoibhe Gormely and Audrey Ericksen all had moments on Saturday. All three started — Adler for the first time in her career, Gormley and Ericken for the fourth consecutive game to open the season.

Adler finished with 12 rebounds and six points. “I thought Anete, when she was in, gave us some good minutes,” Graves said.

Ericksen dropped 13 points, a career-high and team-leading tally, as she made three three-pointers. Gormley finished with nine points and seven boards, both career-highs, and two steals.

“I thought Aoibhe was great defensively, she scored the ball today, too, which has been a goal of her’s,” Graves said.

But despite the flashes here and there, a young BU team without their star trailed by double-digits going into the fourth quarter. It was the first time in four games the Terriers trailed going into the last period and the first time BU has trailed by double-digits all season.

“I think it was a little late, that we decided to step up and play,” Graves said. “We had to wait for (Caitlin) to go in for us to feel like we could do it.”

The Terriers will next face Le Moyne on Wednesday at 1 p.m. as they return home to Case Gym after losing their first road game of the season.

“The biggest thing is trying to fight through adversity, whether that’s on the road, whether that’s missing bodies,” Graves said. “We got to be able to play through that and fight through that.”

That adversity also includes missed shots.

“We want to have that energy sustained throughout the 40 minutes, not just when we’re making shots,” Graves said.

But, the Terriers will also need to have that energy sustained when their best player isn’t at her best, or even when she isn’t out there at all.