Throughout the 2017-18 season, Boston College women’s basketball never scored more than 80 points in a game. The Eagles also forced just 13.57 turnovers per game—285th out of 349 NCAA Division I schools—coughed up the rock 17.4 times per game, and had a rebounding margin of -6.0, 29th worst out of all qualifying DI teams. In short, BC struggled in practically every phase of the game.
Head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee was brought in to change those things, and after Thursday’s game against Rhode Island, it appears that the Eagles are already making some progress. BC jumped out to a 21-10 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back, turning the ball over just 14 times and winning its season opener, 88-64.
One thing the Eagles didn’t lack last season was perimeter scoring. BC made 6.7 3-pointers per game last season, good for 98th best in the country (once again out of 349 NCAA D1 teams). And on Thursday, it was once again the 3-pointer that got BC going, as Taylor Ortlepp drained two in the first three minutes to give the Eagles an early 6-4 lead. From there, the scoring became more balanced. Five different BC players, including freshman Marnelle Garraud, chipped in in the first quarter, helping the Eagles race out to an early double-digit lead.
BC then used a pressure defense, something that was a rarity under former coach Erik Johnson, to truly break the contest open in the second quarter. The Eagles forced six turnovers in the frame and turned those giveaways into easy points, outscoring the Rams, 28-13, in the frame and shooting 11-of-18—61 percent— to stretch the lead to 49-23 before the halftime whistle.
Ortlepp chipped in with two more 3-pointers, while Makayla Dickens—another of BC’s seven freshmen—drilled two baskets from downtown, and Garraud added to her excellent first quarter with five more points off the bench. All told, the Eagles’ bench outscored URI’s, 38-12, which is perhaps a sign that BC will have much more depth than a year ago.
After halftime, the Eagles put any thoughts of a miracle Rams comeback to rest with an 11-6 run to begin the third quarter. Once again, Ortlepp sparked the offense with a 3-pointer on BC’s first offensive possession of the half, and freshman Taylor Soule showed off some post moves, first nailing a layup in the paint before drawing a couple fouls and hitting two free throws.
Meanwhile, Garraud continued to impress, hitting two more shots from behind the arc and showing off an ability to penetrate, as she knifed into the lane and kissed a shot off glass. The freshman guard finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and led the Eagles in scoring. Her second 3-pointer gave the Eagles a 71-34 lead with just over a minute left in the quarter and punctuated an excellent performance from BC to begin the season.
The Rams did outscore the Eagles, 25-16, in the fourth quarter and closed the game on a 19-2 run, as BC finally began to ease up and was able to give Kate Klimkiewicz, Lana Hollingsworth and Jenasae Bishop their first college action. All seven of the Eagles’ freshmen saw the court, and although Garraud stole the show, Soule and Dickens combined for 22 points and Clara Ford contributed with four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.
A reading of the final stats makes for some staggering numbers. BC outrebounded URI, 55-36, forced 25 turnovers, and scored 27 points off of those giveaways. It was a dominant performance from tip-off. Granted, the Rams aren’t an ACC-caliber opponent and finished 3-27 last season with just one conference win, but a blowout win for the Eagles has to be a welcome sight after a season in which they won just one game by more than 20 points and lost by double digits to Dartmouth and Maine.
It’s also promising that BC’s freshmen were able to contribute immediately. Depth was always going to be a concern for an Eagles team that saw just six players record more than 400 minutes of playing time in 2017-18, but seeing players like Garraud, Dickens, and Soule score more than 10 points in their first collegiate games has to relieve some of BC fans’ worries for now.
One win over a hapless non-conference opponent certainly doesn’t indicate that BC’s rebuild is complete, but, at the moment, Bernabei-McNamee and Co. are off to an encouraging start. It’s cliche, but the Eagles can only beat the teams they’re scheduled to play, and after a 2017-18 season in which that didn’t happen often, a dominant win to kick off the 2018-19 campaign is nothing but a step in the right direction.
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor