Women's Basketball

Ella Awobajo’s Double-Double Leads Eagles Past Hokies in ACC Tournament

When a high-powered offense meets an indomitable defense, the matchup often begs the question: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? This was not the case when Boston College women’s basketball (15-15, 2-14 Atlantic Coast) matched up Wednesday night in Greensboro, N.C. with the Virginia Tech Hokies (17-13, 5-11). This contest featured two immovable objects that struggled to find any sort of offensive momentum. Forty minutes of brutality, physicality, and sloppy play eventually saw the Eagles triumph by a score of 49-37. With the win the Eagles punched their ticket to the second round of the ACC Tournament where they will face off against North Carolina State tomorrow at 8 p.m.

In their first matchup of the year on Jan. 3, the Hokies stifled the Eagles in Blacksburg, Va., holding the Eagles to 20 percent shooting en route to a commanding 58-33 win. For BC to remain competitive in this second matchup, Erik Johnson’s crew needed to play a hard-nosed defensive game, challenging Virginia Tech to provide sufficient offensive production for the Eagles’ impenetrable defense to protect.

In a game where each point was earned, both teams intended to establish an early interior presence. The pace of the game was slow and deliberate, and right from the beginning it was clear that each team placed a high value on each offensive possession. Both teams worked the ball around the perimeter, but only for the purpose of creating space in the lane. Early on, the Eagles ran a majority of their possessions through freshman power forward Mariella Fasoula.

Virginia Tech was determined to keep the ball out of the paint and collapsed effectively on Fasoula in the lane, forcing the Eagles into outside shots. With junior Kelly Hughes failing to convert on any field-goal attempts in the first quarter, BC had significant trouble putting up points without help from its leading scorer.

The Hokies, however, had similar issues on their side of the court, as they managed a meager 22 points through the first 20 minutes of play. Excellent defensive rebounding by BC prevented Virginia Tech from getting second-chance opportunities, and ensured that any short-range putbacks would be few and far between. The rebounding effort was spearheaded by redshirt freshman Ella Awobajo, who collected a career-high 13 rebounds in the win.

With a score of 25-22 in favor of BC heading into the half—in a game where the largest lead was only four points—it looked as though separation would be impossible.

BC senior Nicole Boudreau must have felt some urgency to prolong her collegiate career, because her performance in the third quarter gave the Eagles their first taste of breathing room and set them in motion to start the second half. Boudreau scored all 10 of her points in the third quarter, as the rest of the team combined for only four. A dazzling shooting display along with excellent hustle plays from Boudreau on the defensive end helped BC find its first double-digit lead of the night.

The stingy Eagles defense was more than up to the task of protecting the lead, as it surrendered just 15 points in the second half. Unable to get the ball into the post, the Hokies were forced into mid-range jump shots and 3-point attempts that simply refused to go down. Virginia Tech shot a collective 13-of-59 from the field—just 22 percent—its worst shooting performance of the season. The Hokies’ frustration and urgency was visible in the fourth, as hurried possessions and poor shot selection resulted in a plethora of fruitless offensive opportunities.

The Eagles never surrendered their lead as they sealed the 12-point win with a streak of impressive free-throw shooting down the stretch. While the defense shined and the Eagles showed their grit in a dogfight of a game, they will need to keep the ball more secure if they hope to advance any farther in the tournament. BC turned the ball over a whopping 23 times on sloppy passes, bad offensive fouls, and countless dribbling-related infractions. While the Eagles live to fight another day through sheer force of will, they must work on maintaining composure and not giving the ball away if they’d like to see their postseason run extended.

Featured Image by Robert Franklin / AP Photo

March 2, 2016