Good news has been hard to come by for Boston College women’s basketball over the past two months.
Starting Atlantic Coast play in early December, the Eagles lost six of their first seven conference games. Then, after a positive COVID-19 test within the program put the team on pause, the Eagles had to postpone their next three contests.
BC finally returned to the court for the first time on Thursday night, playing in its first game since a Jan. 17 loss to Notre Dame. But the bad news kept flowing for the Eagles as they faced No. 1 Louisville. The Eagles (5-8, 1-8 Atlantic Coast) held their own for the first 15 minutes, tying the game up at 33 with 5:48 to play in the second quarter, but their play fell off hard after that, and BC ultimately dropped a 97-68 decision to the Cardinals (17-1, 10-1).
The Eagles played a solid game on offense, hitting 43 percent of their shots from the field and going 9-of-18 from 3-point range, but they had no answer for Louisville’s lethal combination of quickness and size.
Louisville point guard Dana Evans led the Cardinals with 23 points and five assists, continuing her run of elite play in a season during which she has averaged over 20 points per game. Evans has repeatedly spoiled the Eagles’ hopes during her four years with the Cardinals, scoring 24 points against BC when the two teams faced each other last month and tallying 27 against the Eagles last season.
With Evans running circles around the Eagles’ guards on the perimeter, Louisville center Elizabeth Dixon took it to the Eagles down low, collecting 11 points and four offensive rebounds. Both Clara Ford and Ally VanTimmeren, the Eagles’ two tallest active players, stand a good two inches shorter than the 6-foot-5 Dixon and were no match for her foot speed on moves to the basket.
Dixon’s size advantage aside, the Eagles showed no ability to get their hands on 50/50 balls across the board, repeatedly losing battles for offensive rebounds and loose balls in the open court.
“Things that I know we have to get better at is our toughest to 50/50 balls, I thought that Louisville kind of outplayed us to every 50/50 ball and out-toughed us,” Eagles head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said.
Time and time again, the Cardinals would miss a shot and hand the Eagles an opportunity to chip into Louisville’s lead, only for the Cardinals to win a scrum for the ball and get an easy layup.
“I thought we were terrible on the boards today, to me it was somewhat embarrassing the way we rebounded,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
Freshman guard Allie Palmieri made her debut for BC, joining VanTimmeren as the second Eagle to graduate early from high school last semester and join BC this spring. Palmieri started her career on the Heights hot, draining a corner 3-pointer off of a pass from Marnelle Garraud in the first quarter, but she struggled for the rest of the game and finished with just 1-of-7 shooting from the field.
The Eagles held their own against the Cardinals during the early stretches of the game, finishing the first quarter trailing 29-25 after Makayla Dickens nailed a step-back 3-pointer at the end of the quarter.
Dickens was lights out for the Eagles in the first quarter, draining a trio of 3-pointers. She finished the game with 5-of-6 shooting from deep and totaled 17 points.
BC’s upset bid continued into the second quarter, and Dickens rattled in another triple midway through the quarter to tie the game at 33, but it was all Cardinals from there on out.
Louisville went on a 14-0 tear over the next four minutes, going into halftime up by 12, and the Cardinals steadily added to their lead throughout the second half.
Taylor Soule scored 16 of her 20 points in a single-woman effort to will the Eagles back into the game, but it was never enough to cut into the Cardinals’ heavy advantage.
“I do think there was mental fatigue out there without question and I think that’s what you saw, and that’s also having younger players,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
3:10 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2021: This article has been updated to include quotes from Eagles head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics