Top Story, Women's Basketball

Against Wake Forest, First-Half Troubles Squander Eagles’ Chances

Moments before Boston College women’s basketball ran out onto the Conte Forum floor to face Wake Forest on Thursday night, head coach Erik Johnson warned his team that the game was going to come down to rebounds. His prediction proved prophetic: The Demon Deacons outrebounded BC, 47-22, and— despite a resurgent second half inspired by sophomore guard Taylor Ortlepp’s 16 points—handed the Eagles a 67-59 loss, their seventh-straight defeat.  

Wake Forest’s duo of Alex Sharp and Elisa Penna—both players of international pedigree—dominated the glass, collecting three more rebounds than the entire BC team. Sharp was a thorn in the Eagles’ side all evening long, ending the game with an impressive 22 points, as well as seven offensive rebounds. Throughout the course of the night, Wake Forest scooped up 19 of its 34 missed shots—this was the number that irked Johnson the most.

“Getting outrebounded by 25, you have to be perfect in every other phase in order to overcome that, and clearly that’s a pretty tall order,” the sixth-year Eagles coach told reporters following the game.

BC got off to a slow start, scoring an underwhelming seven points and shooting 28 percent from the field in the first quarter. Stumbling out of the gates has been the Eagles’ Achilles’ heel of late, being outscored by their opponent in the opening half of their past seven games, which have all resulted in defeat. During that span, they have gone on to win the second half on four occasions.

The trend continued on Thursday night, with BC heading into intermission down by 17. Johnson pleaded with his players to cut out the “sloppiness” that was seeping into their game, and they did, committing just three turnovers in the second half, after coughing up the ball nine times in the first half alone, five of which occurred in the final 10 minutes of the second quarter.

Now, with improved ball security, BC began to find its rhythm, almost doubling its field goal percentage, converting 52 percent of its shot attempts in the back half of play. This lift was due in large parts to Ortlepp.

“Taylor is a great example of our team,” Johnson said. “She’s never going to punk out, quit, stop trying, [or] stop listening.”

Her resilience was most evident in the fourth quarter, when she hit four 3-pointers, drawing the Eagles to within four points of the Demon Deacons, right around the two-minute mark. The last of the four, however, was answered by Penna. On the offensive end of the court, the junior tracked down a loose ball and immediately tossed it up for a well-timed layup—a poetic if not brutal indication of BC’s game-long interior struggles.

This latest loss drops the Eagles to 14th in the ACC standings. Competitive as the conference may be, Johnson and his team undoubtedly must be disappointed with how they have fared in ACC play thus far this season. BC will be clutching at straws for good news, but it may lie in the fact that there remain seven more opportunities with which it can pull itself up the table, all against conference opponents. When prompted to look farther along the line, Johnson was candid with reporters.

“Unfortunately our record reflects our inability right now to be able to string a 40-minute game together,” he said. “I know our team can play, but I also know our team can have those bad stretches—we’ve got to reduce those bad stretches and make them just a blip here and there, rather than an entire half.”

Featured Image by Young Kim / Heights Staff

February 1, 2018