After dropping its last game by 50 points to Notre Dame, Boston College women’s basketball took to Conte Forum on Saturday afternoon looking to redeem itself in its penultimate home game of the season. Clemson was coming in after losing four of its last six, albeit three of the defeats were against top-10 teams in the country. While the matchup might have looked easier on paper than against the No. 6 Fighting Irish, the court told a different story.
The Tigers rode their aggressive defense and hot shooting to a 30-point lead in the first half and handled BC with ease, 91-58. The 33-point victory more than doubles the largest margin of victory for the Tigers in a conference game this season, besting a 16-point defeat of Wake Forest. Aliyah Collier led the way off the bench for Clemson (17-9, 7-5 Atlantic Coast), pacing the Tigers with 18 points. The senior was one of five Clemson players in double figures, en route to a 59-percent shooting performance.
“I don’t think that we look like a confident team right now,” head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “Something that we’ve banked on is having confidence through our defense and through our grit and heart. That’s what we have to get back to.”
Clemson’s defense held the Eagles (14-11, 3-10) to just 30-percent shooting from the field, including a 3-for-21 performance from behind the arc, which was actually two more 3-pointers than they made on Wednesday against Notre Dame. Emma Guy was the only BC player in double figures, and she led all scorers with 19. With the Eagles playing from behind for most of the game, however, Guy’s impact in the paint was not nearly enough to get the Eagles back in the game.
BC came out battling on the interior in the first quarter. Guy found space in the paint for seven points in the opening frame, but the junior was the only member of her team able to find success. After taking a one-point lead midway through the quarter, Clemson turned on the defense. Tigers guards swarmed the backcourt and double teamed into the frontcourt, causing BC to cough up the ball—these turnovers were quickly converted into transition buckets at the other end of the floor. Clemson capitalized for a 10-0 run and established a lead, which it would only build upon throughout the rest of the half.
Coming in, it was expected that BC would have to hit a number of perimeter shots to have a chance at beating the Tigers. While Guy was having her way in the paint, the Eagles could not establish a rhythm from the outside. Part of this can be attributed to Clemson’s contesting of nearly every shot, but the Eagles also appeared to be missing somewhat badly on open looks. BC shot just 2-of-11 from deep in the first half, while Clemson converted on five of its seven attempts from 3-point land.
One of those Tigers 3-pointers beat the buzzer in the first frame. With BC looking to cut the deficit to single digits before the quarter expired, the Eagles appeared to be holding the ball for the final shot. Instead, a Milan Bolden-Morris jumper banged off the rim with five seconds to play, and Collier hustled down the floor, lost the ball, but regathered it and drained an off-balance triple. The lead was then 15, and the momentum sat squarely with the Tigers’ bench.
The second quarter began much of the same way the first quarter ended. Clemson was locking down BC ball handlers and forcing turnovers en route to a pair of 3-pointers to open the frame. Guy, Sydney Lowery, and Georgia Pineau all got layups to fall to answer back with a 6-0 run of their own, but the rest of the quarter was all Clemson.
The Tigers used a coordinated and effective defensive effort to hold BC scoreless for over six minutes. On the other end, Collier notched 11 of her 18 points in the quarter and led a Clemson bench that outscored its Eagles’ counterparts, 25-8, in the half. Keniece Purvis and Camree Clegg each added six to this number, whereas BC’s bench combined to shoot just 3-for-12 from the field.
Already down 30 points, BC clawed back in the third quarter. After a lackluster effort in the first half, the Eagles defense’ was forcing turnovers, and it was converting them into points. After missing her first six shots, Taylor Ortlepp was able to tally her first points since returning from an ankle injury that kept her out for three contests. The junior played 26 minutes in her return, and while her shot was not falling often, she was communicating well defensively and added an emotional leadership boost to the team.
The Eagles closed out the quarter on an 8-0 run that cut the deficit to 22, but they could not continue their defensive effort into the fourth quarter. While BC did a better job against the press in the third, the Tigers continued to force turnovers through their aggressive defense. BC coughed up the rock 22 times on Saturday, their seventh performance this season with more than 20 turnovers. Camreé Clegg caught fire in the frame, sinking a trio of 3-pointers, including a four-point play opportunity after Bolden-Morris tried to close out but caught Clegg’s hand in the process.
The loss marks BC’s eighth in its last nine contests, but a silver lining on Saturday was the success of the “Pink Game.” Both teams donned pink-infused jerseys and warm ups as a part of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund initiative. BC also honored the late Clare Droesch, BC ’05, who passed away this year after her long battle with cancer. An impressive crowd showed its support for all of those affected by the disease.
“I loved the turnout we had for our Pink Game,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “That’s the kind of spirit and love of the game and grit that we are trying to instill in our players, what [Clare] had.”
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor