BU Women’s Basketball relies on its composure against American: “We love big moments.”

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

Melissa Graves’ word of the week in practice was composure, and as a dizzying 58-56 win over American highlighted, BU has got it in bunches.

This was a total calamity. BU couldn’t box out at one end and couldn’t take care of the ball at the other, quite literally handing the Eagles a halftime lead. AU scored 29 points in the first half and 26 of them came off an offensive rebound or a BU turnover.

Not as if the stakes weren’t high, either. The Terriers (16-9, 8-6 PL) entered Wednesday in the thick of a log-jam at the top of the Patriot League. An opportunity to leap into the race for the regular season title was right in front of BU, but so was the cliff. With four games left, a loss could’ve easily banished the Terriers to the middle of the pack. And after banging its head into a familiar wall for three-and-a-half quarters, BU trailed by double-digits with six minutes left.

“Obviously,” head coach Graves said, “we had our moments.”

But there was the word of the week. BU remained calm in the face of crisis just long enough to execute a last-minute crash landing — erupting on a furious late tear so ruthless that it was as if the Terriers barely even noticed what preceded it. Senior forward Caitlin Weimar, the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year, blocked two shots and converted two three-point plays in the post to will the Terriers back in it, before ascending junior guard Alex Giannaros buried a 3-pointer with 90 seconds to go to give BU its first lead since the first quarter.

“We love big moments,” Giannaros said after BU finished on an 18-5 run to steal the victory at Case Gym. “Of course, you want to win by 10, 15 points. But when you are in these situations, you want to do anything possible to get that win.”

For a program that had grown so used to winning in hilariously easy fashion over the previous two seasons, BU has suddenly become the team that just finds a way to find a way. 11 days ago, BU dropped below .500 in league play for the very first time under Graves. In the three games since, the Terriers have allowed a whopping 57 offensive rebounds, committed 56 turnovers, and taken a combined 63 fewer shots than their opponents.

BU is 3-0.

“We recollected ourselves,” Graves said. “And I thought we really showed that resolve.”

You expect that from players like Weimar, who leads the league in scoring, and Giannaros, who has established herself as one of the conference’s best guards. Both were here last year, when BU went 17-1 in league play. But there are plenty on the team that haven’t seen any of this before; The Terriers roster eight new players (six of them freshmen) and play two seniors that warmed the bench in their first three seasons.

And it’s those players that, over this jaw-dropping three game win streak, have made some of the biggest plays of all. Players like freshman guard Aoibhe Gormley, who intercepted an Eagles’ pass under their own basket late in the fourth quarter to steal two points and cut the American lead to five. Gormley won BU’s “Dawg of the Game” award for her efforts.

“Aoibhe, her defense down the stretch really helped us and got our energy up,” Giannaros said.

It’s players like freshman guard Audrey Ericksen, too, who started BU’s fourth quarter run with a wing 3-pointer and ended it with a critical hustle play in the final seconds to lift the Terriers across the finish line. 

Before that 3, by the way, Ericksen was 0-for-5 from the field and 0-for-4 from downtown. BU, as a team, shot just 33 percent in the first half, including a catastrophic 2-for-12 in the second quarter. “It felt like we were missing every shot,” Giannaros said.

But then, of course, there was the word of the week. “We talked at halftime,” Graves said, “about trusting the process with our shots.” BU proceeded to shoot almost 50 percent in the second half.

“It’s not easy,” Graves said. “There’s a balance between getting on them, and saying ‘Hey, we are okay.’”

Very clearly, Graves and her staff have found that balance. And just three games after falling to seventh-place, the Terriers are now tied for second and just one game behind first-placed Holy Cross, who BU still gets to play a second time, at home, on Senior Day. A repeat regular season title is now well within the Terriers’ reach.

“I think we’re in a really good place right now,” Giannaros said.

BU is in that place because of sheer mettle. It hasn’t played close to its best at any point during conference play but has remained steady through it all.

“We fought to the end,” Giannaros said. “And as long as you keep fighting, there’s no way you can’t win.”