With a four-point lead entering the fourth quarter against Miami, Boston College women’s basketball fans held their breath. Four key Eagles players were sitting on four fouls, and BC knew that it would be a fight to the finish—but it was a fight that would not conclude without casualties. By the time the Eagles lined up for their final possession down by three points, Makayla Dickens, Taylor Soule, and Georgia Pineau had all fouled out. The final attempt from Milan Bolden-Morris ultimately summed up the Eagles’ upset bid: a valiant effort that came up just short.
In a game that was dominated by whistles—Miami alone attempted 49 free throws—the Eagles competed until the final buzzer, but fell 76-73. Not only would holding the lead have meant a big road victory over a Hurricanes (18-4, 6-1 Atlantic Coast) team that was ranked No. 23 in the Coaches Poll, but also against a team that had dismantled No. 13 Syracuse earlier this week.
BC (13-7, 2-5) was at a disadvantage inside and was unable to box out Miami forwards Beatrice Mompremier and Emese Hof, who combined for 30 points and greatly contributed to the Hurricanes’ 42-27 rebounding edge. Taylor Ortlepp was tireless in her pursuit for an Eagles victory, leading the team with 17 points and staying on the court for all but one minute of game action.
Knowing it would need a deeply focused and spirited effort to overcome the Hurricanes, BC came out firing in the first quarter. The Eagles somehow held an early advantage in the interior, despite Miami’s height advantage—14 of BC’s 22 first-quarter points came in the paint. Unselfish ball movement was apparent as well, as six of the Eagles’ eight baskets were complemented by assists.
After Pineau picked up a pair of personal fouls on the same play, registering a shooting foul and subsequent technical, the Eagles looked to the bench for support. Soule and Sydney Lowery answered the call, tallying a combined 10 points in the frame. Miami turned up the heat on defense, pressing BC in the backcourt, which had mixed results. The Hurricanes forced a turnover, but the aggressive defense also resulted in two fouls that sent the Eagles to the free-throw line.
Miami’s physicality and willingness to attack the basket began to get to the Eagles early in the second quarter. The Hurricanes rode five makes at the charity stripe and a layup to a 7-0 run to open the frame, and another touch foul on the perimeter entered them into the bonus just two minutes in.
After relying on interior scoring in the first quarter, Ortlepp found her stroke in the second. She buried a pair of triples en route to a 10-point quarter, and the back-and-forth affair kept swinging, with the Eagles closing the quarter on a 9-5 run to take a slim lead into the halftime break. Dickens was doing it all from the guard spot in the first half, notching six points, five rebounds, and four assists.
The third quarter began for Miami much as it did in the second: Its ability to draw fouls was becoming the game’s deciding factor. The Hurricanes once again drew four quick fouls and arrived into the bonus with over seven minutes to play in the frame. With Emma Guy picking up her third foul early on, Hof and Mompremie capitalized with offensive rebounds over some of the Eagles’ shorter players. For the game, Miami was able to turn 13 offensive boards into 15 second-chance points, whereas BC was unable to muster a single point in that category.
Despite the foul trouble, the Eagles found themselves running Miami up and down the floor in transition. Over the course of a three-minute stretch toward the end of the quarter, the Eagles opened up a 9-1 run that was punctuated by Ortlepp’s third 3-pointer of the afternoon, extending BC’s largest lead of the day, an eight-point advantage. The run came at a cost, however. Miami was able to cut the deficit to four before the period expired, at which point Guy, Dickens, Pineau, and Soule had all picked up their fourth fouls.
Eagles head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee tactically adjusted her team’s defense to begin the fourth quarter. Knowing that the referees were officiating very tightly and that a number of her players were in danger of fouling out, she shifted to a zone. The defensive scheme hinged on preventing the ball from getting underneath the basket, begging the Hurricanes to shoot from beyond the arc, where they had converted just 2-of-14 attempts in the first three quarters. The problem for the Eagles was that Laura Cornelius and Mykea Gray nailed a pair of timely 3-pointers that shifted momentum back toward the Hurricane bench.
BC’s unwillingness to go away despite lopsided foul totals kept it within striking distance, though. With 46 seconds left to play, and the Eagles trailing by one, Dickens dribbled around a screen and fired from mid-range. The shot dropped, and BC once again had the advantage. On the next play, though, the freshman fouled out, and Miami regained the lead at the line. But BC would still get its share of opportunities. In the final 30 seconds, Marnelle Garraud had two chances from deep, the Eagles were called for a five-second inbounds violation, and Bolden-Morris missed a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.
The fight that BC showed on the road against what will most likely be ranked a top-25 team this coming week is admirable and shows the strides that the program has taken under Bernabei-McNamee in her first year on the Heights. While struggles from distance—the Eagles finished 3-of-18 with nobody other than Ortlepp hitting one—and the inability to avoid fouls are notable issues, BC was in the game late and in a road environment nonetheless. The path gets slightly easier from here, too, as the Eagles are back home for two games and don’t hit the road again until Feb. 7.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor