Basketball, Women's Basketball

Eagles Fall to Virginia in First Round of ACC Tournament

One month ago, when Boston College women’s basketball hit the road to play Virginia, the Eagles owned the third quarter. After heading into halftime trailing by 13, BC came out of the break with a vengeance, outscoring the Cavaliers, 28-15, to knot the game up heading into the final frame. Eventually, however, the Eagles couldn’t complete the comeback, falling in overtime.

On Wednesday, in the first round of the ACC Tournament, the roles were reversed. After BC opened up a 12-point early third-quarter lead behind an 8-0 run capped off by Sydney Lowery’s 3-pointer, UVA exploded, closing the period with a 24-7 spurt to jump into the driver’s seat. This time, however, the Cavaliers did what the Eagles couldn’t in Charlottesville, holding off BC’s fourth-quarter push and ending the Eagles’ season with a 77-61 win.

UVA (12-18, 5-11 Atlantic Coast) started the game red hot and attacked the paint with ease. Monae Jones banked home a layup, Khyasia Caldwell maneuvered into the paint for a bucket and a foul, and after the Cavaliers pushed the ball in transition and Lisa Jablonowski scored a layup of her own, UVA led, 11-0, just three minutes into regulation.

Luckily for BC (14-16, 3-13), it had a post presence of its own to turn to, as Emma Guy shouldered the bulk of the offensive load to get the Eagles back in the game. The junior forward showcased a variety of moves down low to score six consecutive points before finishing the quarter strong with a putback off a missed shot from distance from Marnelle Garraud. All in all, Guy scored eight of BC’s 10 points in the quarter and ensured that the Eagles finished the period trailing just 14-10.

BC continued to chip away and found some success on the glass, nabbing four offensive rebounds in the second quarter alone. Offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions led to consecutive shots from behind the arc from Milan Bolden-Morris that gave the Eagles their first lead of the game at 24-21, and after Garraud sank BC’s third 3-pointer of the quarter with 1:14 to play, the Eagles took a 29-23 lead into halftime.

It looked like BC had found its offensive rhythm, and the beginning of the third quarter did nothing to dispel that notion. Lowery joined in on the prolific outside shooting, draining two long-range shots of her own. Those 3-pointers, combined with a basket from Taylor Soule inside, could have been decisive. Unfortunately for head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee and Co., the Cavaliers instead gave the Eagles a taste of their own medicine, and it started with Jocelyn Willoughby, who scored 25 of her game-high 29 points in the second half.

The 6-foot forward—who also torched BC to the tune of 26 points and 11 rebounds the last time the teams met—answered Lowery’s triple with one of her own before receiving the ball in the post and knocking down a jumper.

Taylor Ortlepp momentarily stopped the bleeding by connecting on a long-range effort from the corner, but UVA—and especially Willoughby—was relentless. With the Cavaliers still trailing, 42-41, the junior rattled off six quick points, and a fastbreak layup gave UVA a seven-point advantage with under a minute to play in the quarter.

Taylor Soule halted the 8-0 Cavaliers run, and it looked like the Eagles had regained some momentum as the final period started. Garraud nailed a 3-pointer, Bolden-Morris took advantage of a steal from Soule to hit a floater in the paint, and, thanks to an 11-6 run, BC managed to narrow the deficit to just 55-53. In the end, though, Willoughby once again ensured that UVA had the last word.

She ripped down an offensive rebound and drew a foul on Georgia Pineau before hitting two free throws, and followed that with four more shots from the charity stripe after another Garraud shot from behind the arc. Guy scored her final basket of the game to cut the Cavaliers lead to 67-61 with 53 seconds left, but UVA hit all six of its free throws in the final minute, and Brianna Tinsley added two uncontested layups as the Cavaliers ran out the clock in style.

The defeat caps the first season of a new era under Bernabei-McNamee for the Eagles, and even though it ended on a nine-game losing streak, BC can look forward to a 2019-20 season in which the entire roster will be back, barring transfers. Of course, there’s plenty of work to be done, especially on the defensive end—where the Eagles finished last in the ACC in points per game allowed—and questions still remain about the ability of BC to improve defensively. But with players like Makayla Dickens, Soule, and Guy, the Eagles have a solid core to build on and the talent to start climbing the conference standings should the rebuild keep progressing.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

March 6, 2019