With both of Boston College women’s basketball’s losses this season coming on the road, Wednesday night’s away matchup at UMass Amherst’s Mullins Center appeared daunting—especially since the Minutewomen were undefeated at home coming into the game. But, in a 66–60 victory, the Eagles (7–2) delivered UMass (9–2) its first home loss of the season and matched last year’s win total in the season’s first month.
“UMass is a really good team,” head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said in her postgame press conference. “They’re a veteran team. So we thought coming into this game that it would take a lot of grit and a lot of heart. And I think we showed that.”
Both teams came out hot and exchanged leads much of the first quarter, until BC erupted for a 13–2 run that extended far into the second quarter.
The Eagles, powered by their strong offensive presence in the paint, took advantage of the Minutewomen’s slow start to the quarter and built a nine-point lead. Though it took UMass half of the quarter to make its first shot, the Minutewomen refused to go down easily and quickly cut the deficit to four with a minute remaining in the half.
It was a sloppy end to the half for both sides, and the contest remained close entering the third quarter with BC clinging to a four-point lead.
The two teams went on offsetting runs to begin the second half, but two consecutive threes from Cameron Swartz three minutes into the third quarter opened up the floodgates for the Eagles.
BC’s lead expanded all the way to 18 points, and even with the Minutewomen’s late push, the Eagles came away with a comfortable win, in part because of another overwhelming third-quarter effort.
Every player that saw the court for the Eagles recorded at least two points, as both starters and bench players made their presence known. Taylor Soule picked up right where she left off in her previous game, totaling 19 points on the night. Soule often found herself at the free-throw line, finishing 5-of-9 from the charity stripe. Swartz added 20 points of her own, nine of which came from deep. Jaelyn Batts played a key role facilitating the offense and led the team with eight assists.
Maria Gakdeng set the tone for the team, especially on the defensive end. The freshman center finished with eight points, a block, and seven rebounds—which were especially important against a UMass team that rebounds well.
“One thing I tried to get after was rebounds,” Gakdeng said. “We had emphasized that even before this game.”
Led by Gakdeng, the Eagles’ defense swarmed the Minutewomen all night, leading to 20 turnovers and several disrupted shots. BC played complementary basketball, as intense defense led to easy transition points. And unlike its most recent game against VCU, the Eagles controlled the ball the whole game and won the turnover battle—another key to their victory.
“You got to take care of the ball,” Soule said. “You can’t give them extra opportunities to get back into the game. … Just taking care of the ball was a huge thing for us today.”
The Eagles still left a lot on the table offensively. BC shot only 31 percent from beyond the arc and connected on just over half of its free throws.
“They just want to get the win,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “And I think as long as we play gritty, like we did today, and play mean and tough, I think we’re going to end up in the win column more than we will not.”
Featured Image by Nicole Wei / Heights Staff