Women's Basketball

Eagles Handed ACC First Round Exit for Fourth Time in Five Years

Having already beaten North Carolina by 13 earlier in the year, Boston College women’s basketball had a reason to be optimistic entering its first-round ACC Tournament matchup. That win, however, was in the friendly confines of Conte Forum—the Eagles went just 1-13 away from home in the regular season.

With the contest set in Greensboro, N.C., a virtual home game for the Tar Heels, it just wasn’t in the cards for BC. Despite trailing by nine after the first quarter, the Eagles rallied to take the lead with four minutes to go in third. Fourteen minutes later, after a UNC scoring blitz, BC was handed its second-straight first round loss, falling, 69-64.

“North Carolina had to step up and make big time plays to beat us,” Eagles head coach Erik Johnson said in his postgame press conference. “To their credit they did…it was a hard-fought battle and we came a couple basketball plays away from being able to win it.”

BC (7-23, 2-14 Atlantic Coast) guard Taylor Ortlepp closed out her season on tear, piling up a team-high 23 points—her third 20-plus point performance in the last four games—while tying her career-high with seven 3-pointers, set earlier in the week against Syracuse.

She was outgunned, however, by Tar Heels (15-15, 4-12) guard Paris Kea. Kea had 20 points in the first half, en route to a 28-point outing, shooting 4-of-5 from 3-point range and chipping in five rebounds and four assists. Aided by a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double effort from Janelle Bailey, UNC responded to the Eagles’ rally with a 10-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter to advance.

Bailey was held scoreless in the opening half, the product of strong double-teams down low. Once she started to step out of the paint and sink shots, however, BC couldn’t adjust—or keep up. Throw in seven second-half points from guard Taylor Koenen, and the Eagles were struggling to just stay afloat. Koenen and teammate Jamie Cherry knocked down pivotal 3-pointers during the late run.

“Everybody knows North Carolina has three players that score all their points, right,” Johnson said after mentioning Bailey’s second half success. “Well, guess what? In that 10-0 run, those kids stepped up.”

Eagles guard Milan Bolden-Morris had eight of her 10 in the second half, but after taking the lead near the end of the third, BC soon found itself playing from behind, the rest of the way. Andie Anastos finished with 15 points in the loss, while Bolden-Morris, Ortlepp, and Georgia Pineau all had six-plus rebounds.

The early going was rough for BC. It turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter and struggled to defend from midrange out. It didn’t help that the Eagles hit just two of their 13 shots from the field, falling behind, 15-6.

Ortlepp and Anastos shot their way back into the game in the second quarter, though. The duo combined for three 3-pointers in a run that cut the Tar Heels’ lead to just two. A few minutes later, after a mini-UNC run, the two answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to half the lead again. Despite outscoring the Tar Heels down the stretch of the first half, 7-2, BC still went into the break down three.

The second half was back-and-forth, with the Eagles taking their first lead on the strength of a Katie Quandt layup. UNC went on a 8-1 run to cap the quarter, then overcame an Ortlepp 3-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter to rattle off 10-straight points.

BC trailed by 12, but after a Johnson timeout, it managed to mount a comeback. The Tar Heels’ lead was whittled down to three with 28 seconds to go on an Anastos layup, but free throws sealed the game.

The loss knocked the Eagles out of the first round yet again, and the season as a whole was filled with offensive miscues and defensive struggles. Still, there’s a bit of optimism surrounding the program. Pineau and Ortlepp are both sophomores, while Bolden-Morris is just a freshman.

“We built the basketball side of things around two or three sophomores and two freshmen that really were our five leading scorers,” Johnson said. “This is a team that, to put in context, had four seniors that maybe weren’t our leading scorers and the star players. But they created a culture that is going to continue Boston College women’s basketball into the future.”

In Johnson’s six years at BC, he’s gone just 67-115—and an even worse 19-79 in conference play. Whether the future of the Eagles will contain him, only time will tell.

Featured Image by H. Scott Hoffman / News & Record via AP

March 1, 2018

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