Last Tuesday, when Boston College women’s basketball lost to Providence in the confines of Conte Forum, it came as a shock to many. Coming into that contest the Eagles had beaten the Friars in 14 of their last 15 meetings and were riding a six-game winning streak with plenty of confidence. In its previous games, BC dominated its opponents en route to averaging over 80 points per game. But against Providence, the Eagles’ shots simply did not fall, and their early-season success appeared to be slightly unsustainable.
A win over Columbia on Sunday instilled some confidence back in the Eagles and on Thursday, the Eagles were granted another opportunity to continue to right the ship, as Bryant came into town in the midst of a six-game losing streak. It looked like the perfect time for BC to tack on another non-conference victory—and the Eagles delivered, topping the Bulldogs, 83-46 (2-7).
BC (8-1) got off to an incredibly quick start against Bryant. The Eagles swarmed their visitors on defense and created plenty of first-chance opportunities, with nine of their first 11 points coming on the break. The early nine-point lead that BC jumped out to would prove to be insurmountable for the Bulldogs, and any attempt from Bryant to make a comeback was certainly not bolstered by its shooting—it went a woeful 2-of-16 from the field in the first quarter.
The Eagles’ feisty defense continued to come up big, forcing a plethora of turnovers. At one point in the beginning of the second quarter, BC notched steals on three-consecutive possessions. Not only were the Eagles consistently forcing turnovers, they were also nailing their shots from deep. In the second quarter, BC missed its first four shots from beyond the arc, but Makayla Dickens, Taylor Ortlepp, and Milan Bolden-Morris all connected from distance to extend their lead.
The Eagles had their foot on the gas right from the get-go, and they wouldn’t let up in the second half. Taylor Ortlepp, who would tie Bolden-Morris for the team lead in points with 15, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, and Bryant continued to be careless with the ball. The Eagles capitalized off of these turnovers and also controlled second chances, pulling away with ease.
During the fourth quarter, BC’s bench received extensive playing time, and they thrived. The Eagles’ second team didn’t lose a step as they maintained their big lead over the Bulldogs. The highlight of the quarter, and arguably the game, came when Bolden-Morris started cooking from downtown. In the last 10 minutes of play, she drilled four 3-pointers in a row, igniting the fans and her teammates.
“I thought she was phenomenal. I love seeing her energy,” head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “We have 12 players that work hard everyday, all of them equally so. When any of them can step up and have a night like that, it makes everybody excited and happy.”
Every single Eagles player received minutes in this contest and the bench went on to score 39 points, nearly half of the team’s total amount. Nine players recorded five or more points, and three players were in double digits. This depth, combined with the versatility of the starters, is what makes BC a constant threat to put up 80-plus points on any given night.
While the Eagles were able to secure a smooth victory, it wasn’t perfect by any means. BC only shot 58 percent from the free throw line. The Eagles did force 27 turnovers, including an impressive 19 steals, but they also were prone to giving up the ball. And while the defense in transition was excellent, BC could have had a better presence in the paint.
“I thought the way we defended the post today was a little lackluster,” Bernabei-McNamee added. “I thought we had 10 too many turnovers. A lot of them were just us trying to play a fast tempo, and some of our possessions were rushed.”
With their victory over Bryant, the Eagles picked up their eighth win, surpassing their win total from the 2017-18 season, remarkable progress for Bernabei-McNamee to make in her first season at the helm. Last year under Erik Johnson, the Eagles never eclipsed the 80-point threshold. Under Bernabei-McNamee, the revitalized Eagles have already passed that mark five times in their first nine games.
The going will get much tougher when ACC foes fill the schedule, but BC’s next game will give it a good taste of its future competition. On Sunday, No. 14 Minnesota will come to Conte and provide a stiff test for the Eagles. If BC is able to give the Golden Gophers a good fight, or even garner a win, then it will provide further evidence that this Eagles team could be for real.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor