Sports, Women's Basketball, Basketball, Winter

Cardinals’ Defense Dominates, BC Falls to Louisville

Coming into Thursday night’s matchup riding a 10-game winning streak, No. 3 Louisville presented a challenge unlike any other that Boston College women’s basketball had faced yet this season. 

The Cardinals’ strength was on full display on their home floor, as Louisville (11–1–0, 1–0–0 Atlantic Coast) cruised past the Eagles (8–4, 0–2) by a final score of 79–49. 

“I don’t think we looked like a very confident team in that second half,” head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said after the game. “I think we looked like a team that was trying to play one-on-one.”

BC held strong defensively in the first quarter, as Louisville struggled to find its shot. Solid defense from both sides kept the scoring low, and the Cardinals only led by one point heading into the second quarter—a manageable deficit for the Eagles. 

A Cameron Swartz jumpshot to open the second quarter gave BC a slight one-point advantage, but that was as close to winning as the Eagles would come. Though BC had multiple opportunities to extend that lead and gain control of the game in the minutes that followed, Louisville finally broke out of its early shooting slump and took over in the second quarter. After a 4-of-19 start from the field, a 6-of-7 shooting run propelled the Cardinals to a comfortable lead, powered by Louisville forward Emily Engstler. 

“[Engstler’s] one of those Swiss Army Knife players,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “She can do it all, and she’s got a very high basketball IQ.”

The Eagles could not do themselves any favors on offense, either. With 14 attempts in the first half, BC had no trouble getting to the free-throw line, but failure to consistently connect on free-throw attempts prevented the Eagles from gaining much offensive momentum. Several BC turnovers allowed Louisville to play a patient, complementary brand of basketball that put the Cardinals ahead by 11 points after the first half. 

The Cardinals’ scorching second-quarter offense carried over into the second half, while the Eagles could not replicate their defensive performance from the first quarter. As a result, Louisville’s lead continued to grow. A 9–0 run midway through the third quarter pushed the Louisville lead to 21 points and sealed the game for the Cardinals, who went on to win by 30. 

Entering Thursday’s matchup averaging 19.3 turnovers per game, BC was already turnover prone coming into the game. BC had its work cut out for itself, especially against a tremendous defensive team in Louisville that allows the third-fewest points per game in the country. Coupled with a poor shooting night, BC’s offense looked stagnant and inefficient.

“They did a really good job of just heating us up on-ball defensively and also taking those first passes away, which kind of blew up our offensive sets,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “And then when we would go to plan B, we weren’t really executing, and it forced us into 21 turnovers.”

BC came into Thursday’s game as one of the best shooting teams in the country, averaging an ACC-best 48.7 percent from the field as a team. The Cardinals’ stout defense was prepared, however, and Louisville held the Eagles to only 35.4 percent field goal shooting. 

And while the Eagles’ offensive troubles were to be expected against such a strong defensive team, their woes at the line certainly were not. BC had only lost once this season when attempting more than 16 free-throws in a game. With 26 attempts, the Eagles easily eclipsed that number, but they missed half of those attempts—an uncharacteristic performance for the Eagles. 

“That still baffles me,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “Our team shoots the ball from the free-throw line in practice and in general pretty good. So for us to shoot that way from the free-throw line—I’m not sure what to credit that to, except for a lack of focus that we [have] got to get better at.”

Feature Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

December 31, 2021