Opinion: After a comeback victory against American, BU is back in the race for the Patriot League. Can it overcome turnovers and rebounding issues in the final stretch?

By Henry Dinh-Price

BOSTON – A remarkable turnaround. 

11 days ago, BU lost its third straight game and fell to 5-6 in the Patriot League. It was the first time in head coach Melissa Graves’ three-year tenure that the Terriers had fallen below .500 in league play and the first time they had lost three in a row since December 2021. 

It felt like The Roof was caving in. 

Yet Graves’ confidence never wavered. 

“I think we’re still in a pretty good position considering where the league is at,” she said after that third consecutive loss, a 71-60 defeat to Bucknell at Case Gym. 

It didn’t seem like it at the time, but she was right. 

Since that loss to Bucknell, BU (16-9, 8-6 PL) has rattled off three straight wins. 

A comeback victory over the American Eagles (9-16, 7-7 PL) on Wednesday was the latest chapter in the Terrier turnaround. 

With under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Terriers trailed 51-40. They hadn’t scored in over four minutes. 

American was on a 9-0 run after BU had cut the deficit to two, the smallest of the second half to that point. 

It felt deflating. 

But the Terriers never quit. 

“Our theme for the week this week is composure,” Graves said. “I thought that really spoke to us today, where we kept our composure where we needed to.” 

BU finished the game on an 18-5 run, enough to come away with a thrilling 58-56 victory. 

A left-wing 3 from junior guard Alex Giannaros gave BU a 56-53 lead with 1:32 remaining, capping a 10-0 run. 

“We love big moments,” Giannaros said. “Of course, you want to win by 10, 15 points, but when you are in those situations, you want to do anything possible to get that win.”

With six seconds remaining, tied at 56, freshman guard Audrey Ericksen got fouled in the backcourt, about 80 feet from the basket. The foul put American over the limit, sending Ericksen to the line. 

Ericksen missed her first but made the all-important second shot to put BU up by one. 

On the ensuing possession, in need of a stop, BU freshman guard Aoibhe Gormley instead committed a shooting foul on American’s Lexi Salazar. 

Salazar, a freshman guard, stepped up to the stripe with 4.3 seconds remaining. Deafening screams filled Case Gym. 

Her first free throw rimmed out, only intensifying the screams. 

Her second… no good off the front rim. 

American’s senior guard Ivy Bales corralled the offensive rebound but threw up a no-look shot, not even facing the rim, that landed out of bounds with 1.9 seconds remaining. 

From there, BU was able to close it out, securing a crucial Patriot League victory. 

“These are really big pressure games, talking about finishing the conference where we have a chance to get to the top of it, but you gotta win,” Graves said.

With the win, the Terriers are now tied for second place in the Patriot League. 

But that’s not all. BU still has first-placed Holy Cross (15-10, 9-5 PL) on its schedule, and the Terriers are only a game behind. 11 days ago, a regular season title would not have seemed possible. But after a three-game win streak and help from Holy Cross, losers of four of its last five, it’s fair for the Terriers to have their eyes on the prize. 

“I think we’re in a really good place right now,” Giannaros said. “I think (the win) gives us a ton of confidence.”

But will BU be able to claim that first seed going into the Patriot League tournament? 

Despite all the winning as of late, two obstacles stand in the way: turnovers and rebounding. 

The Terriers coughed it up 20 times, resulting in 26 points off turnovers for the Eagles. They also allowed American to snatch 18 offensive rebounds. 

It was even worse on Saturday in a win over Navy. Navy collected 28 offensive rebounds, and BU committed 25 turnovers. The Terriers attempted 44 shots to Navy’s 80. No, that’s not a typo. Navy took a whopping 80 shots, 36 more than BU. 

“The turnover piece was one thing that we really focused on throughout the year,” Graves said. “But you know, the o-board situation, giving up o-boards has been a much bigger focus.”

The recent wins are extremely promising, and BU’s ability to win despite its flaws is impressive. But the flaws are still glaring.

“Every team’s got area of improvements, I think, and those two are ours,” said Graves. 

Navy’s 36 additional shot attempts are an outlier, but Army had an extra 18 last week, and American had nine more on Wednesday. 

The Terriers have made up for it by outshooting opponents. BU is first in Patriot League play in team field goal percentage, and second in opponent field goal percentage. It also ranked first in the Patriot League, and 13th in the nation, in three-point percentage entering Wednesday.

Turnovers and rebounding are holding BU back from being elite. If it can solve, or at least lessen the impact, of its shortcomings, it will be the clear frontrunner in the Patriot League. BU could take the one-seed by winning out. 

But when BU gives away extra possessions, the margin for error continues to decrease, and as long as the issues persist, the Terriers are prone to an upset on any given night. 

“Talking about turnovers and rebounding. As long as we fix those two things, I think that we’re going to be fine,” Giannaros said. “And besides those two things, we’re really confident in everything we’re doing.”