Women’s Basketball: BU throttled by Colgate at the worst time, falls to 3rd seed in upcoming Patriot League tournament

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

The tallest mountains have the steepest cliffs, and never has BU looked worse under Melissa Graves than in the performance that followed Saturday’s long-awaited summit of Holy Cross.

Actually, the Terriers have never looked worse under both their current third-year head coach and the three-year coach that preceded her, because before Colgate trounced BU 77-40 at Cotterell Court on Wednesday — yes, that’s 77-40 — the Terriers hadn’t lost this bad since a 46-point thumping all the way back in 2016. And the context there makes this even worse. These Terriers (18-11, 10-7 PL) were playing for a share of the Patriot League regular season title, and maybe even the whole thing outright. Those Terriers? They finished the season 3-27.

“There was really no reason for us to play the way we played,” head coach Melissa Graves lamented, “considering we were playing for a championship tonight.”

Clearly, the one problem with BU’s victory over HC was that it still had another game to play. A pretty big one, too, as it turns out. The Terriers entered with little breathing room at the top of a jam-packed conference. BU was a win away from the regular season title, sure, and yes, 17 of the possible 32 combinations of results on the Patriot League’s final day left BU with a top-two seed. But critically, that meant 15 of them didn’t, and the snakepit waiting for the Terriers if they lost was treacherous. Five of those scenarios, for example, dropped the Terriers below the fourth seed and stripped them of a home quarterfinal. 

Colgate (17-12, 10-8 PL) was no joke, either. The Raiders entered with plenty to play for themselves, including their own, albeit much longer, shot at one of those top-two seeds.

“We were ready to play,” Colgate head coach Ganiyat Adeduntan said. “We knew we needed to show up today.”

And — true story — they won! Funny how that works, huh?

As reward for their consideration, Colgate will, in fact, enter said tournament as the No. 2 seed. The home semifinal that comes with it would have been BU’s, but instead, a team that has battled, fought and willed itself to victory time and time again — never more so than on Saturday, when it overcame a 21-point first-half deficit — walked onto the court, missed a couple shots, and threw up the white flag.

“We were a different team against Holy Cross. We battled. We looked fearless. We didn’t look defeated at any point,” Graves said. “And tonight, going into halftime, I told them, ‘Some of you guys look like we already lost.’”

That’s frustrating, because BU wasn’t even all that bad in the first half, its 8-for-30 shooting clip withstanding. Plenty of those looks were wide open, which Graves acknowledged postgame, and though forward Caitlin Weimar didn’t score until late in the second quarter, the senior, who will almost certainly be named Player of the Year, missed multiple bunny layups. The Terriers entered the break only down 13, with work to do but by no means out of it. But then, of course, they actually had to do the work. BU came out of the half completely disengaged, allowing 12 points in the first three-and-a-half minutes to start a third quarter in which Colgate scored a whopping 29 points.

“We were missing shots, and we just put our head down and kind of pouted about it,” Graves said, “instead of trying to dig in and get stops at the other end.”

It was a quite stunning collapse. This was not the first time BU had shot poorly in the first half — far from it — and one of the reasons this game was so big to begin with was because the Terriers had gotten so good at shaking off these kinds of shooting slumps. BU shot 27 percent in the first half on Saturday, shot 16 percent in the second quarter on February 21 — when junior guard Alex Giannaros said it felt like the Terriers “were missing almost every shot” — and shot 32 percent in the first half on January 27. BU won all three of those games. On Wednesday?

“We just had a lot of moments of feeling sorry for ourselves,” Graves said.

She denied BU’s capitulation was a result of the emotional tax spent on the win over Holy Cross. When asked if there was anything she saw in practice since that suggested this was coming, Graves said there was nothing. The Terriers prepared well (“nothing we could have prepared differently”), knew they were playing for their first back-to-back regular season title in program history…and lost by 37.

“It’s very out of character for us,” Graves said.

She is right about that, to be fair, but it won’t matter if BU doesn’t return to who it really is. The Terriers will be the No. 3 seed in the tournament and will host Army West Point on Monday in the quarterfinals at Case Gym. Colgate jumped on the BU, quite literally, to grab the 2-seed and Holy Cross, damn Holy Cross, took care of their business to win the regular season title and take the 1-seed. But this could have been much, much worse. Loyola Maryland, Bucknell, and Army all had to lose for BU to end up this high. The Terriers picked a really bad time but were bailed out by results elsewhere.

There will be no such safety net on Monday.

“It’s do-or-die, it’s one-and-done, you’ve got to put everything on the line,” Graves said. 

So BU needs to get right. And fast.

“And (on Wednesday), it wasn’t that we were missing shots that was so disappointing,” Graves said. “It was the effort.”

The Terriers cannot have that, not against an Army team (12-16, 9-9 PL) with real teeth. The Black Knights won the season’s first meeting before giving BU a legit test on February 14 at Case Gym. Army led for most of the first half that day, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, forced 11 turnovers, and finished with 18 more shots than BU. The Terriers won that game because of grit, composure, and, most importantly, defense, each of which they didn’t have Wednesday. There is a not-insignificant chance a similar script will play out again. BU was already down a big and will now be without senior guard Kelsi Mingo, who suffered an injury on Saturday and whose length has seen her fill gaps in the frontcourt.

No. 3 BU could very easily lose.

“The league is so incredibly close,” Graves said. “The bottom seeds can upset the top seeds, no question, any day.”

The Terriers have to be ready for a fight. On Wednesday, for the first time this season and to a worse extent than at any point over two election cycles, they weren’t.

“It’s learning,” Graves said, “…that you always need to be ready to play.”