Boston University women’s basketball and its league-best defense hosted Lehigh’s high-flying offense in in the Patriot League championship on Sunday.
But true to the old “defense wins championships” adage, it was actually Lehigh that locked down in key possessions to stymie the Terriers. Coupled with their perimeter-oriented attack, the Mountain Hawks earned a 64-54 victory and a conference title.
“We reviewed a lot of film over the last few days,” said Lehigh coach Sue Troyan. “We only had two days, but we put in basically a whole new defensive scheme.”
“It obviously wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” added Terrier coach Marisa Moseley, “but [the players] left everything they had on the floor, and that’s all I ever wanted from them.”
Lehigh (10-5) punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. Sophomore Frannie Hottinger scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, while tournament MVP Emma Grothaus added 12 points and eight rebounds.
“It feels surreal right now,” Grothaus said. “I don’t even know if it’s happened yet … but it’s crazy and I feel so happy.”
The Terriers (12-2) and Mountain Hawks did not meet once during the regular season due to the Patriot League’s revamped mini-conference format to reduce travel. They were supposed to face off in the 2020 conference semifinals; that game was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the two sides got acquainted, Lehigh set the tone early by attacking the BU zone. The Mountain Hawks scored 16 points in the paint to the Terriers’ 4 by halftime and crashed the offensive glass. Lehigh led by as much as 12 midway through the second quarter.
An 11-1 Terrier run, capped off by a 3-point heave at the buzzer from redshirt junior Emily Esposito, brought the score to 31-29 at halftime. But Lehigh kept its foot on the gas throughout.
Late in the fourth quarter, BU mounted an 8-0 run to close the gap to 54-51. The Mountain Hawks called a timeout, and then turned around with a 10-0 surge to seal the victory.
“They always said they wanted to play and they wanted to compete for a championship,” said Troyan. “And to get to this point and win is just very deserving for what they have endured.”
The loss is tough to swallow for Moseley, who has led her team one round further in the Patriot League playoffs in each of her three years at the helm. BU shot 32.9 percent as a team, with sophomore Sydney Johnson’s 16 points leading the way.
“We’ve seen this kind of story before. When shots aren’t going in for us, it’s a lot harder for us to win,” Moseley said.
The former UConn assistant conceded that being the head coach in the losing championship locker room is a new learning experience.
“They don’t have a book for that — for what you’re supposed to say,” she said. “I felt a bit stunned, I think. Not stunned like I didn’t think we could lose, but, I think this has been such an incredibly challenging year.”
Atlantic 10 women’s final
VCU 81, UMass 69 — Taya Robinson and Sarah Te-Biasu scored 19 points apiece to lead VCU to its second NCAA tournament berth win over UMass in Richmond, Va. in an improbable matchup in the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament. The Rams, who last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, won by making 10 of 20 from 3-point range and 14 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter. Plus back-to-back offensive rebounds allowed VCU, up 73-67, to have a 49-second possession capped by a pair of free throws with just less than a minute left. Tera Reed added 12 points and Janika Griffith-Wallace 10 for VCU, which was playing in its third straight title game. Robinson, a senior, was 5 of 7 behind the arc and Te-Biasu, a freshman, was 3 of 6 plus 8 of 8 at the line for her season-high scoring game.
Sydney Taylor hit five 3-pointers and scored 23 points for UMass, Angelique Ngalakulondi added 19 with nine rebounds and Sam Breen had 12. The Minutewomen only brought eight players to the tournament.
Hockey East men’s quarterfinals
Lowell 2, BU 1 — Sophomore Brian Chambers scored the winner at 8:19 of the third period to lift the No. 7 seeded UMass Lowell hockey team (9-8-1) over No. 2 Boston University (10-4-1) in the Hockey East quarterfinals. The River Hawks are headed to the Hockey East semifinals for the 19th time overall. “I thought our third period was our best period,’' Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “This is a great time of year to be playing. We get to live to fight another day here.” Lowell outshot ninth-ranked BU, 29-17. Sophomore Matt Brown also scored. Freshman Henry Welsch had 16 saves, including 10 in the second period, to earn his first career postseason decision. Drew Commesso made 27 stops for the Terriers. The Terriers got on the board first just more than two minutes into play, as Dylan Peterson skated the puck along the boards and over the blue line before dishing to Jamie Armstrong, who was crashing toward the far post for the finish. The River Hawks answered at 4:30 when junior Jon McDonald fired a slap shot from just outside the left circle that found Brown’s stick for the deflection on net. At 8:19 of the third period, the River Hawks’ Reid Stefanson chipped the puck away from the boards and over toward sophomore Andre Lee for the redirect toward an oncoming Chambers, who wound up from inside the near circle for the goal. “When I saw the rolling puck, I just wanted to shoot it as hard as I could,” Chambers said. “Luckily it bounced in and that’s how it goes. It was a big goal, and I’m just pumped for my team.”
Providence 6, UConn 1 — Nick Poisson, Tyce Thompson, Brett Berard, and Uula Ruikka each had a goal and an assist as Providence College (11-8-5) skated past UConn (10-11-2) at Freitas Ice Forum. Jaxson Stauber had 40 saves for the Friars, 20 in the third period.
UMass 4, Northeastern 1 — Bobby Trivigno had a goal and two assists to lead the University of Massachusetts over No. 20 Northeastern (9-9-3) at the Mullins Center. No. 7 UMass (14-5-4) will play Providence in the conference semifinals. Filip Lindberg had 25 saves for UMass, and Connor Murphy had 24 for NU.
BC 3, UNH 2 — The No. 1 seed and top-ranked Eagles took a 3-0 first-period lead on the visiting Wildcats on goals by Alex Newhook, Mike Hardman, and Nikita Nesterenko, scoring three times in the opening 8:25 of the game. Sophomore Matt Boldy registered two assists. Spencer Knight had 35 saves for BC (17-4-1) and Mike Robinson had 33 for UNH (6-14-3), which got goals from Eric MacAdams and Luke Reid. BC will face Lowell in the semifinals.