Opinion: In first rematch with Holy Cross, BU Women’s Basketball leaves with more questions than answers

Featured image by Stevie Potter

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

WORCESTER, Mass. — It’s something about this place.

Something about purple and white. Something about Bronagh Power-Cassidy and Janelle Allen and Maureen Magarity. Something about the Hart Center.

Something about Holy Cross.

It’s three losses in a row now. No matter how good BU is — even if it’s 17-straight conference wins good — no matter how much is on the line — even if that’s a ticket to March Madness — and after Monday, no matter how different the Terriers are after climbing out of the last crater, it hasn’t mattered.

BU lost to Holy Cross. Again. 61-50, this time.

“It definitely is a harder loss,” senior forward Caitlin Weimar said, “because of how last year went.”

BU (13-7, 5-4 PL) has demons here. The nail-biting road loss in the very last game of last year’s regular season, a game that BU entered on a 17-game conference winning streak, was one thing. But last season’s Patriot League title game, which BU hosted and lost in devastating fashion, was entirely another.

“There’s a lot of emotions,” Weimar said. “Definitely a lot of feeling like we’re trying to get revenge.”

The scab remains unpicked. And it’s getting bigger. 

Melissa Graves is 54-29 in two-and-a-half seasons as head coach. She is 37-13 against Patriot League opposition. She has a winning or even record against nine of ten league opponents. 

She is 2-4 against Holy Cross. 

“I don’t think it’s like, ‘we can’t beat them,’” Graves said. “We have the talent, again, we just have to lock in and focus on what we need to do.”

It did not go unnoticed around Case Gym that the Crusaders were picked to finish first in the preseason poll and the Terriers were picked second. “For the team, I think they’re definitely playing with a chip on their shoulder. When they saw the preseason poll they were really excited,” Graves told WTBU Sports on November 9, two months and 18 games before Monday. “They’re super pumped to play Holy Cross,” she added.

The Crusaders’ loss to Lehigh on Saturday, their first in conference play after a 7-0 start, did not go unnoticed either. Graves, after BU won to improve to 5-3 and move two games behind the leaders, openly celebrated when she heard the news.

So the Terriers needed this one badly, not just because of the emotions, but the standings, too, and they once again left a date with Holy Cross with nothing.

It was agonizing. BU chose Monday to score just 50 points, its second-fewest of the year, and shoot just 28.8 percent from the field, by far its lowest number of the season and almost 16 percentage points lower than its average coming in.

“There were times when we executed really well,” Graves said, “there were times when we took bad shots and we didn’t take the best shot that we can get on the floor.”

What is it about the Crusaders’ defense? What is it about Holy Cross?

“Oh, wow, there’s a lot,” said Weimar when asked what adjustments the Terriers need to make when they face the Crusaders. 

Weimar, the conference’s preseason Player of the Year and leading scorer, finished with 13 points on Monday, a good mark but tied for her worst output since November.

“They do a great job of game planning,” Graves said. “They obviously sag on Cait.”

The Crusaders did more than sag on her. They fouled Weimar 11 times, almost all of them off the ball.

“There’s a lot of things I deal with, just people trying their best to push me out of the paint and obviously that comes with a lot of fouls, which can be frustrating,” Weimar said.

Weimar still got hers, as she almost always does, finishing with 17 rebounds and her 11th double-double in her last 12 games. But she went just 5-for-13 from the field, had to sit a fair amount of the third quarter in foul trouble and rarely felt as dominant as she usually is.

But even despite the poor shooting and its star forward’s struggles, BU was in this thing. It trailed 22-21 with five minutes to play in the first half, before the Crusaders, roared on by the student section, exploded on a 12-0 run to close out the half. 

Holy Cross scored 12 points in just two minutes of game time. The Hart Center peaked. BU, neck and neck for the entire first half, suddenly trailed by 13 at the break. Like that.

“This is a very hard place to play,” Graves said. 

She has won at least once in every Patriot League building except for the Hart Center.

But still, BU pulled itself back into it. Out of the half, it forced turnovers on each of Holy Cross’ first four possessions, allowed just six points in the entire third quarter and cut the lead to five entering the final frame.

And then the Terriers fell apart. BU made one basket in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Holy Cross slowly inched right back to where it began the half — leading by double-digits. BU’s grave was dug.

How brutal. The last time the Terriers faced the Crusaders, in the Patriot League title game, BU trailed for most of the game, unleashed a furious run to roar back into it before falling short right at the finish line. It happened, albeit not as dramatically, again.

Something about Holy Cross. BU just cannot bring its best for the full 40 minutes. And right now, it feels like BU just cannot beat them.

“If we can execute more throughout the entire game rather than just in spurts,” Graves said, “I think we can come out on the other end.”

BU will get another crack. The Crusaders come to town on March 2, Senior Day, no less — the very last game of the regular season.

But perhaps the worst part about this loss? Holy Cross improved to 8-1 in league play, BU fell to 5-4. The Crusaders are in first. The Terriers are in fourth. Even if BU finally breaks through on March 2, it might be too late.

Said Graves: “We have to look back at this game and learn from it and decide: can we do this for a full 40?”