Boston College women’s basketball has struggled against most of its ACC opponents since joining the conference in 2005, and one team in particular has had the Eagles’ number for quite some time—Florida State. Coming into Thursday night’s game, the Seminoles led the all-time series 15-1, with the only win for BC coming nearly a decade ago. Even though there has been such a great disparity between these two teams, it appeared that the matchup would be much closer this time around.
For one, the Eagles have enjoyed a massive turnaround season under new head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee and were fresh off picking up two ACC road victories. Meanwhile, the Seminoles entered with a stellar 14-2 record, but they had just suffered a defeat to Clemson in which they only scored 45 points. Before that, FSU only barely eked out victories over North Carolina and Virginia. The chances of BC actually picking up a win were quite slim, but at the very least, the Eagles were going to make it an interesting contest.
In the early going, it looked like BC was doing just that as it put forth a strong effort in the first quarter. The first frame was a thrilling affair in which the Seminoles displayed their up-tempo offense. For the most part, BC was able to keep pace, but FSU held a noticeable edge with an eight-point lead. After that, though, the Eagles fell out of the contest, as the Seminoles pulled away and built up an insurmountable lead. When all was said and done, FSU left Conte Forum with a 91-71 win.
The first period started with both teams trading blows. Taylor Ortlepp, Emma Guy, and Georgia Pineau shouldered much of the load for BC (13-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) in the beginning with their other teammates struggling to find a rhythm from the field. Makayla Dickens recorded two fouls within the first two minutes of play, Marnelle Garraud was quiet, and the bench failed to provide a spark. The Seminoles (15-2, 3-1), on the other hand, had six different players tally points on 64 percent shooting. Ortlepp’s 10 points kept the Eagles within distance of FSU, but they trailed, 28-20.
Unfortunately for BC, it was unable to build on its initial performance in the following frame. The Seminoles’ high-octane offense began to wear down the Eagles. Operating on a boundless amount of energy, FSU kickstarted the period with an 8-0 run to construct a convincing double-digit lead. BC responded with six-straight points, but a Kiah Gillespie triple killed the Eagles’ momentum. It was a recurring theme for BC throughout the night—whenever it battled its way back into the game, the Seminoles responded with a run of their own to keep the game out of reach. By the end of the half, FSU maintained a 16-point edge.
Coming out of the locker room, BC could not make the necessary adjustments to erase its deficit. The third frame was more of an even draw, but for the Eagles to win, they needed to significantly outplay the Seminoles, and they did not accomplish that. At one point, BC stitched together a 5-0 run, but any hope of that manifesting that into a comeback was quickly crushed when the Eagles went scoreless in the final two minutes of the period. Gillespie, who came in as FSU’s leading scorer at 17.8 points per game, reached 20 points during this quarter. The Maryland transfer ended the night with a team-high 23 points along with eight rebounds.
The narrative from the first three periods continued in the final frame—FSU constantly bullied and wore down the Eagles with quick pace and dominant play in the paint. Adding to the difficulty for BC was containing all of the threats that the Seminoles boasted. It wasn’t just Gillespie putting up a strong performance, four other FSU players—Nicki Ekhomu, Valencia Myers, Nausia Woolfolk, and Morgan Jones—also registered double-digit points.
While Thursday night’s game was more competitive than past meetings between the two programs, it was still a disappointing loss for BC nonetheless. Guy and Ortlepp were bright spots in the losing effort as they tallied 24 and 18 points, respectively. The Eagles greatly struggled to contain FSU’s offensive attack. Even though the Seminoles came into Thursday night’s game only averaging 69 points per game, they were able to hang 91 on BC. FSU was able to score so easily, due to the Eagles’ poor transition defense—they simply could not keep pace on the defensive end. While the game was initially close, BC was gradually worn down and had to resort to fouling. The Eagles ended up with 27 fouls, which gave FSU a whopping 39 free throw attempts—21 more than BC.
“The keys that we talked about for this game were transition defense and not fouling them,” Bernabei-McNamee said after the game. “I think, clearly, we didn’t do those two things.”
A poor performance from beyond the arc also served as an explanation for the defeat. Besides Ortlepp, who knocked down 40 percent of her triples, no other Eagle connected from deep. As a result, BC only converted 21.1 percent of its 3-point attempts. FSU wasn’t much better with a 25 percent conversion rate from downtown, but the Seminoles were able to score most of their points through their sheer dominance in the post and on the fastbreak.
“That was frustrating … but it’s also hard for me to tell my shooters not to shoot open shots,” said Bernabei-McNamee on the team’s 3-point struggles. “We have some of those fall, and the game looks a lot different.”
In the end, this was certainly a tough loss, but it also serves as a stark reminder of just how tough ACC competition can be. The Seminoles were a reminder that the opponents are bigger, faster, and far more skilled than they were in non-conference play. The two victories that Bernabei-McNamee has already picked up in conference play are a testament to the progress that has been achieved under her tenure, but wins against the class of the conference, like FSU, will still be tough to come by. And no tougher test exists than a date with No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend on Sunday.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor