“We knew that we owed them one”: Eight days after losing by 37, BU Women’s Basketball dominates Colgate to advance to second-straight Patriot League Championship Game

By Sam Robb O’Hagan

Let’s get this out of the way first — BU looked like a champion. Any way you slice it. It was ruthless, it was dominant, it played flat-out ridiculous defense, it had the best player on the court. Truly extraordinary, not least when you remember that the Terriers walked into this very building eight days before, with a regular season title on the line, and lost by 37. And then on Thursday, as if BU had just flipped a switch, it arrived back in Hamilton and didn’t even give Colgate a sniff.

And it’s fitting, really, that BU did this in front of the raucous Colgate men’s team. The group that, just 24 hours prior, won its fourth-straight Patriot League title on this same court. The Terriers knew about Hamilton, about the Cotterell Court crazies, about the Colgate women’s 11-5 record and four-game winning streak at home, about their very own putrid record on the road and, of course, their own recent history in central New York

“Colgate, and what they put together for the semi,” head coach Melissa Graves admitted, “it was tough.”

Her team took all of that, walked into the place for the Patriot League semifinal and shut the whole thing down. And maybe we should have expected it. Because if Colgate (18-13, 10-8 PL) has the toughest atmosphere in the conference — and it very well might — BU has the most dominant player. And there isn’t a shred of doubt about that.

Want to see a championship-type player turn the lights out? Try Caitlin Weimar, just steps away from that men’s team — which was rocking again after the Raiders had finally shown life — demanding the basketball in the post with three minutes to go in third. Colgate had just rattled off a 7-2 run and had cut a wire-to-wire BU lead to single digits. Weimar got the rock, took two dribbles, dropped her shoulder, and was elevating.

And no one reaches the 6-foot-4 senior when she’s going up. Certainly not Colgate’s Chidinma Okafor who was left, for some reason, in single-coverage. Okafor was not alone on Thursday. And she was not the only Raider big that suffered for the inevitability of the conference Player of the Year.

Bucket, whistle, silence.


Weimar made the free throw to complete the three-point play, and the lead was back to 12. It would never again fall into single digits. A couple minutes later, the third quarter ended, and the one they call ‘Cait’ already had 26 points and 10 rebounds.

“That,” Graves said, “is a kid that wants to win it.”

After leading the Terriers in a complete, thorough, 52-40 dismantling of the Raiders, Weimar will have her chance. BU (20-11, 10-8 PL) advances to its second consecutive Patriot League championship game, where it will play Holy Cross (19-12, 11-7 PL) on the road in Worcester on Sunday at noon.

“I’m very hype,” Weimar said. “I’m ready to go back.”

On the surface, it’s hard not to think: What In The World was Colgate thinking, leaving Weimar (26 points, 12 boards, 2 assists and 3 blocks) on an island all night? The truth is, the Raiders had skated on this particular sheet of ice in both regular season matchups and… it kinda worked. Weimar finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds here in that game eight days before but was just 8-of-19 from the field and lost the battle with Colgate’s Tiasia McMillan (21 points, 10-of-13 shooting). But this was the Patriot League semifinal, and Weimar was now, officially, armed with the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year trophies. McMillan is a fantastic player, as are the other bigs the Raiders threw at Weimar, but there’s levels to this.

“Yeah. Just taking advantage of that,” Weimar said. “Realizing they were really inconsistent with the double.”

She cooked each and every one of them. It was, one might say, a clinic. And you can’t exactly blame Colgate coach Ganiyat Adeduntan for her thinking. It worked in this building barely a week ago, when, again, Colgate won by 37. Thirty-seven! Graves’ words: “That was probably our worst game of the season.” ‘Probably’ is doing a lot of work there.

“We knew that we owed them one,” Weimar said.

Owed them what, exactly? Their best. Weimar owed them her best — which they got — but BU as a whole owed its defensive best, too, after Graves said the Terriers capitulated on that end when they allowed 77 points last week. And how the Raiders certainly got that.

The numbers are jaw-dropping. Colgate scored 40 points, tied for its fewest of the year, made just 12 shots, by far the fewest, and shot barely 20 percent from the floor, the lowest mark for any Patriot League team this season by a mile. McMillan, who entered on a tear, scored 4 points on 2-of-7 shooting. Colgate scored just six points in the second quarter, then entered the fourth quarter trailing by 12 with 10 minutes left to save its season… and went on to make two baskets.

“It was huge,” Graves said of her team’s defensive performance. “We adjusted a lot of things. We tried to dig on the dribble on every drive. We doubled McMillan every time she dribbled the ball in the post, so that’s where you get the five turnovers for her. 

“We were just like laser-locked in and focused. And I felt it the last two days as well. We were really focused in practice, really focused in shoot-around, and we knew the scout inside out.”

The process of a team playing for a spot in the Patriot League Championship, yes, but also that of a team looking for revenge. Suffering the program’s worst defeat by margin in seven seasons will do that.

“As much as we don’t like to lose like that, I think it was a blessing in disguise,” Weimar said. “Because we were so amped to make sure that doesn’t even get close to happening again.

“We just really —,” Weimar said, pausing. “We weren’t going to let that happen.”

And that, as everything seems to these days, brings BU back to Holy Cross. Oh, dreaded Holy Cross. The storylines write themselves. Last year’s Terriers, led in scoring by Weimar, went 19-2 across the conference regular season and postseason. Both losses were to the Crusaders. Holy Cross walked into BU’s building almost a year ago Sunday and stole the Terriers’ ticket to the dance. It is real, it is raw, and, despite a last-minute comeback victory at home over their arch-rivals on Senior Day to start the month, it is still very much with Graves, Weimar and BU. Now, they get the Crusaders again, in Holy Cross’ building this time, with a chance to take back what was theirs.

As if BU needed any more motivation, with a trip to the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 2003 at stake.

“We’re going to come in and play the same way we always do,” Weimar said. “But yes, it definitely does hit a little different because it’s Holy Cross.”

That might be a good thing. The Terriers have been on a revenge tour all year. It’s been the story of a season in which BU has been punched down plenty but has kept finding the fight to get right back up. Consider Thursday. It’s not like BU needed any extra motivation in a Patriot League semifinal, either, but they got it in the form of the program’s largest loss in (literally) 2,949 days and ran with it to an absolute demolition of a really freakin’ good team.

Now here they are, facing an even better team, in an even bigger game, with the fire of what wasn’t the largest but was certainly the program’s most devastating loss in recent history charing them forward.

“Tonight was similar, I thought we had an opportunity to get some redemption for the last time we played (Colgate)…it felt like it was kind of a rematch,” Graves said. “And I feel like now, going back to (Holy Cross’) place, to be in a championship again, it’s a similar scenario, and it’s exciting.”

There’s real beauty in that. At the risk of being too cliche, isn’t this what sports are all about? What winning a championship is all about, right? Climbing the mountain again, getting over that hump against the very team that embodies it. Would BU really want it any other way?

“This team really wants to win it,” Graves said. “We want to win so badly,” Weimar added.

Maybe you don’t buy the whole superstitious destiny B.S. when it comes to winning the whole thing. Fair enough. Who knows if the Terriers do, either. But regardless, you can’t deny that what BU is doing is what champions do. Losing badly — real badly — and never letting it happen again. It takes resilience and will and composure and whatever else it takes to win a title to do that.

On Thursday, BU was all of those things. It arrived in Hamilton, the title town in this conference, and looked like a champion.

And maybe, just maybe, as a sign of things to come — sitting on the Cotterell Court floor with the Colgate men’s team but, in the end, there to watch Boston University women’s basketball, was the Patriot League trophy.