Top Story, Women's Basketball

Eagles Halt Nine-Game Losing Streak Against Pittsburgh

For what felt like the first time all season, the crowd at Conte Forum was shaking the building for Boston College women’s basketball. Georgia Pineau had just hit a layup for her 10th point in under three minutes, and it looked like BC was primed to snap its nine-game losing streak.

From there, hustle plays allowed the Eagles to coast to victory over Pittsburgh. After a 3-pointer from Taylor Ortlepp spun out on the the offensive end, Katie Quandt was able to snatch the rebound and score an easy putback layup. On the other side of the court, Andie Anastos intercepted a Panthers pass, leading to a foul and two free throw attempts to ice the game. It was a team effort from the Eagles throughout the game, as BC used double-digit scoring from four of its starters to pick up a 72-61 win— , its first in over a month.

The game was a low-scoring affair early on and featured lots of scrappy play down low. The Eagles (7-18, 2-10 Atlantic Coast) didn’t record their first field goal until Pineau put in an off-balance layup with just over six minutes left in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh (10-15, 2-10 ACC) looked to run its offense with pace, but Anastos was able to take advantage of the Panthers’ aggressiveness, taking two critical charges. BC may have gotten its fair share of offensive fouls as the Panthers drove to the basket, but the first nine committed by the Eagles all came in the paint. And although she was able to slow down the Pittsburgh attack, Anastos had trouble keeping possession of the ball, turning it over twice in the span of a minute and a half.

In the blink of an eye, Yacine Diop increassaed the Panther lead to six in the first quarter, knocking down a well-contested 3-pointer from just outside the arc. The orange-mohawked junior came into the game at the team’s leading scorer and finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, even though she committed five turnovers along the way.

Despite its success early on, Pittsburgh’s discipline proved to be costly. The Panthers picked up their fourth team foul with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter, and although they managed to keep BC off the free throw line, by the fourth quarter they had four players with at least four fouls, forcing them to abandon their hostile gameplan. Meanwhile, the Eagles committed lots of their own mistakes in the defensive key. Almost every time the Panthers got an open look in the paint, a BC defender would try and compensate with counterproductive play on defense that more often than not resulted in an and-one opportunity.

Things looked bleak for the Eagles until Milan Bolden-Morris jumpstarted the BC offense by making her team’s first triple and, on the very next possession, Anastos drilled a jumper from the elbow to bring the Eagles within five. An over-the-back call on Diop led to free throws for Sydney Lowery, who netted both to tie the game up at 26. On BC’s next possession Taylor Ortlepp nailed a 20-foot baseline jumper to give the Eagles their first lead since the opening minutes of the game. During the 11-2 run, Pittsburgh was unable to convert on eight-straight field goal attempts over the course of four and a half minutes. Still, back-to-back 3-pointers from Kauai Bradley—including a buzzer-beater—put the Panthers up, 34-30, at halftime.

The two teams traded buckets in the second half, with BC retaking the lead at one point early on, but an and-one for Kalista Walters extended the Panthers’ lead to six with just over five minutes to play.

Breaking the scoring drought for the Eagles was Pineau, who beat the shot clock with a rare 3-pointer—her fourth of the season—cutting the Pittsburgh lead to just one. From there, it was Pineau and Ortlepp taking control of the BC offense. On its next possession, Ortlepp found an over-pursued Pineau in the paint, and fed her a beautiful lob pass for an easy two. Soon after, Pineau drove to the paint and returned the favor with a baseline pass to Ortlepp, who connected on a 15-footer.

Bolden-Morris closed out an impressive third quarter for the Eagles with a hesitation move leading to an open shot at the top of the key, but, again, the Panthers were able to hit a last second trey, this time from Kyla Nelson, who tied the game at 49 going into the final period.

Right on cue, Bolden-Morris revived the Eagles’ offense in the fourth quarter, knocking down a triple from the top of the arc and giving the team legitimate momentum for the first time all game. On BC’s next possession, Pineau converted an and-one to give the Eagles a six-point lead. Pineau continued her dominance in the paint with another 3-point play just a minute later and with just over six minutes left, things looked grim for the Panthers. They tried to implement a full-court press, but time and again BC was able to break it with heads up passing down the floor.

Pineau finished with a career-high 23 points, 19 of which came in the second half. After the game, coach Erik Johnson credited his star forward’s heads up play as a key reason why she was able to take over the game in the fourth quarter.

“She was able to get her defender in foul trouble early, and I thought that made a difference,” said the sixth-year coach. “It really softened up their interior defense.”

Free throw shooting was key for the Eagles, who came into the game shooting just 68 percent from the line. In the first half, BC went a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe and finished with a season high 25 made free throws. The team’s 72 points were the most for the Eagles since their last win that came against North Carolina on Jan. 5.

It was also clear Johnson emphasized the effect of turnovers at halftime. After giving the ball away 35 times in the team’s most recent loss to Georgia Tech last Thursday and 10 times in the first half against the Panthers, BC only coughed up the rock three times in the second half.

Still, it wasn’t a completely flawless performance.The Eagles weren’t able to protect the defensive glass for the entirety of the contest. At one point in the second half, Pittsburgh had as many offensive rebounds as it did defensive. Over the course of the game, the Panthers scored 15 second-chance points on as many offensive boards.

Nonetheless, BC leapt out of the cellar of the ACC standings and now sits atop Clemson. The long-awaited win also allowed Johnson to express the pride he’s had in his team over the entire season.

“I can’t take any credit from a coaching standpoint,” he said. “Players have to go make plays and I’m so proud of them for going out there today and doing it.”

Featured Image by Jake Catania / Heights Staff

February 11, 2018

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