Basketball, Women's Basketball

Eagles Falter in Second Half, End Regular Season With Loss to Syracuse

Three weeks ago, when Boston College women’s basketball traveled to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse, it fell victim to an offensive outburst from the Orange. Syracuse was lights out the entire game, shooting an astounding 60.6 percent from the field and knocking down 12 shots beyond the arc, en route to a 96-69 blowout victory over the Eagles. When the teams matched up again on Saturday, it was evident from the beginning of the game that the Orange wouldn’t be able to enjoy the same success offensively.

After scoring 26 points in the first quarter alone in the team’s Feb. 10 meeting, Syracuse went into halftime on Saturday with only 30 points, and it looked like the Eagles had a chance to pull off an upset over the No. 17 Orange in the final game of the regular season. But, a great offensive team like Syracuse—which averages the third-most points per game in the conference—doesn’t often go a whole game struggling to score, and true to form the Orange woke up after the break, shooting 51 percent in the second half and ultimately pulling away from BC to win, 76-59.

In the first quarter, the Eagles (14-15, 3-13 Atlantic Coast) locked in on defense, using active hands to force seven Syracuse (22-7, 11-5) turnovers and prevent the Orange from establishing an offensive rhythm. On the other end, Milan Bolden-Morris and Taylor Ortlepp both knocked down shots from behind the arc to stake BC to an early 11-8 advantage, and Makayla Dickens extended the lead to 15-10 with a floater in the lane.

Syracuse attempted to steal some momentum back going into the second quarter, as Isis Young forced a turnover at midcourt and Tiana Mangakahia banked in a wild shot from well behind the 3-point line to knot the score at 15 after one period of play. BC, however, turned to Emma Guy—who scored a career-high 30 points the last time the two teams met—to keep pace. The junior forward scored the Eagles’ first six points of the second quarter, utilizing a variety of moves in the paint to offset 3-pointers from Digna Strautmane and Miranda Drummond.  

The Orange continued to be effective from downtown, as Strautmane buried her second long-range shot of the quarter to give Syracuse what was, at that point, its largest lead of the game—a 28-23 advantage—but once again Guy had the answer, this time stepping outside the paint for a mid-range jumper. The teams would score just once each in the last three minutes of the quarter, and Sydney Lowery’s pull-up jumper helped BC head to the locker room at halftime, trailing just 30-29.

Guy kicked off the second half with another basket, but the back-and-forth nature of the game continued as the teams traded baskets. Kiara Lewis hit three free throws to give Syracuse some breathing room, but Dickens buried a deep 3-pointer to cut the Orange lead to just 41-40.

The shot ignited the BC bench and could have given the Eagles some momentum, but Mangakahia, the Orange point guard, eliminated any possibility of a BC run by beginning to take the game over on the pick and roll. The junior exploited the Eagles’ switch-heavy defense by attacking Guy and BC’s other post players, drawing a foul and draining two free throws, then knifing into the lane for a tough bank shot.

Even when Mangakahia wasn’t the one taking the shots, she was deadly, throwing a perfect pass to an uncovered Amaya Finkley-Guity for an uncontested layup. Finkley-Guity added two more points off an outlet pass from Mangakahia, and the Orange closed the third quarter on a 10-3 run, handing it a 53-45 lead moving into the final frame.

“We really didn’t have a great answer for that,” Joanna Bernabei-McNamee remarked about Mangakahia’s run after the game. “When we tried to do something different, she made us pay with a great pass, and then we tried to do something different and she’d take it to us on the inside.”

Much like different defenses, a stoppage of play didn’t have any effect on Mangakahia’s performances. She fed Strautmane for a hook shot in the lane, then scored herself with an underhand scoop to give Syracuse a 57-47 edge. A layup from Taylor Soule off a long feed from Dickens got BC back within single digits, but the Orange had finally found its offensive groove, and the Eagles simply couldn’t keep up. Drummond swished a 3-pointer from the left wing, and Kadiatou Sissoko recovered a Mangakahia miss to put Syracuse up, 64-50.

Ortlepp gave the Eagles momentary life with back-to-back 3-pointers, one from each corner, but Strautmane hit the Orange’s ninth and final shot from behind the arc to give Syracuse a 69-56 lead and effectively end the Eagles’ shot at a comeback. Bernabei-McNamee put BC in a full-court press, but the Orange calmly ran down the clock. Mangakahia fittingly scored Syracuse’s final two points of the game on a pair of free throws, giving her a game-high 27.

The loss to the Orange marked the eighth straight defeat for the Eagles to end the regular season, and a disappointing conclusion to a regular season that began so promisingly. Despite that, after a 27-point loss to Syracuse just three weeks ago, a defeat in which BC trailed by as little as nine in the fourth quarter, can serve as a reminder that the future is still bright under Bernabei-McNamee and her young team. Not to mention that, with the ACC Tournament (where the Eagles haven’t won since 2015-16) still to play, there’s at least one more opportunity for BC to indicate that—despite the string of losses—there’s been a lot of progress in the first year of a new era.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

March 3, 2019