Basketball, Women's Basketball

Eagles Continue to Struggle Down Stretch in Overtime Loss to Virginia

Of Boston College women’s basketball’s last four games, three have been decided by three points or fewer, two have gone to overtime, and the Eagles had fourth-quarter leads in each game. The only problem—BC came out on top in just one of those four contests.

On Thursday night at UVA, in the latest nailbiting edition of Eagles fourth-quarter basketball, BC saw yet another lead evaporate in the game’s closing minutes. Makayla Dickens had stolen the show all game, knocking down seven 3-pointers on her way to 24 points, a total she only bested last week in the double overtime thriller against Duke. The waning minutes of Thursday’s contest, however, once again highlighted the Eagles’ crunch time inexperience that has plagued the program during this two-week stretch.

With BC nursing a slim lead in the final two minutes, the freshman made just one of four free throws and committed two pivotal turnovers, allowing UVA to tie the game and send it to overtime. With momentum having swung, the Cavaliers, led by Jocelyn Willoughby—who scored eight of her game-high 26 points in the extra frame—took over and came out victorious, 79-77.

BC (14-9, 3-7 Atlantic Coast)  had numerous chances to close out UVA (9-14, 3-7) in regulation or to come back in overtime, but the Eagles came up just short of notching a fourth ACC victory for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

BC gave up the first eight points in its previous contest against UVA Tech, but the Eagles came out of the gates hot on Thursday. Emma Guy converted a quick layup and Dickens sunk a high-bouncing 3-pointer to open up a quick five-point lead. The Cavaliers answered right back, though, using the interior to respond with a quick 6-0 run of their own. UVA was playing a 2-3 zone defense, which made it hard for the Eagles to attack the paint, but Dickens and Sydney Lowery were knocking down perimeter shots to break down the zone.

UVA kept attacking the paint, especially because Guy had to exit just three minutes into the game after picking up her second foul. It made the most of the 6-foot-3 junior’s absence by scoring eight straight points after the game was tied, opening up a lead it would not relinquish until the third quarter. The Cavaliers played selflessly with the ball, assisting on seven of their ten first-quarter baskets. Mone Jones had 10 of her 16 points in the first quarter, propelling the Cavaliers to a six-point lead at the first break.

The second quarter began in sloppy fashion. Both teams turned the ball over on their first possessions, and BC proceeded to cough the ball up on its next two trips down the court as well. Throughout the quarter, the Eagles attempted to turn steals and defensive rebounds into fastbreak points at the other end. The problem was that the Cavaliers got back quickly on defense, and BC’s transition attack quickly featured a number of turnovers. The Eagles had 12 turnovers to zero fastbreak points in the first half, and Dickens, operating as the point guard and leader of the break, tossed many errant passes and was responsible for seven of the miscues.

UVA continued to attack the interior and the offensive glass in the second frame. With Guy either on the bench or playing cautiously with two fouls, the Cavaliers were able to navigate into the paint with ease. Despite their lack of height, good passing and finishing led to a 20-8 edge in points in the paint. Hustle and execution led to a 12-0 advantage in the second-chance points category. Over the final seven minutes of play, the UVA defense ramped up, and strung together a 12-2 run to take a 13-point lead into halftime.

BC came out of the locker room with newfound life and energy. A strong post finish from Guy, followed by a pair of Dickens deep balls, promptly cut the deficit to five and forced a Cavaliers timeout just two minutes into the quarter. The two shots were the beginning of a 3-point barrage from the Eagles. They shot 6-for-8 from behind the arc in the quarter, including a 9-2 run that included successive triples from Dickens, Marnelle Garraud, and Lowery. All the more impressive, BC was able to shoot 13-of-26 from deep in the game with Taylor Ortlepp—who leads the team in 3-pointers made—out with an ankle injury.

Guy made a statement in the second half, aiding the deep attack with three layups in the third, and continued her strong physical play into the fourth quarter. She worked hard to get position beneath the basket and finished over shorter UVA defenders for 18 points in the game. Yet, with fatigue setting in at both ends, it was the Cavaliers who capitalized in the fourth quarter when the Eagles just couldn’t pull away.

BC held a two-point lead with two minutes to go, but time after time, it couldn’t extend the lead to two possessions. Finally, after a long scoring drought, Dominique Toussaint swiped the ball away from Dickens for her ninth turnover of the contest—UVA as a team committed just nine in the game compared to 22 for BC. Toussaint drove to the rim, drew the foul, and calmly hit both free throws, sending the game to overtime. The speedy Toussaint notched 17 points in the game, eight of which came at the charity stripe.

In the extra frame, Toussaint was able to salvage a dismal perimeter shooting day for UVA by nailing the timely Cavaliers’ second 3-pointer on 13 attempts, creating a four-point cushion. BC tried to claw its way back in the game, and 3-pointers from Dickens and Milan Bolden-Morris kept the contest close. But BC could not stop the Cavaliers’ drives to the rim, as they picked up 10 of their 17 overtime points from the free throw line. Down three in the final seconds, Garraud got a good look from deep that would have tied the contest, but it clanked off the rim and fell into the hands of Jones, the lone senior on UVA’s roster who secured the rebound, and the victory.

While no ACC game is ever easy, the softer part of the Eagles’ conference schedule is now behind them—which doesn’t bode well for the home stretch. It’s especially painful that the team’s last three losses all came in the waning minutes of games, key chances that just slipped away because of inexperience. With five regular season games left to play, three of them are against ranked opponents, and all five opponents sport at least a .500 record in conference play. Head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee’s crew will hope to end what has been a promising season on a high note, but this frustrating stretch can’t help but leave fans thinking about what could have been.

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / For The Heights

February 8, 2019