On Wednesday night inside Conte Forum, both Boston College women’s basketball and Rutgers initiated a zone press from the tip off. But, the Eagles’ performance on the press set the tone for the rest of the game.
BC pressured the Scarlet Knights with intensity by sprinting to the ball, trapping ball handlers, and forcing turnovers on both sides of the court.
Capitalizing on the full-court press, the Eagles (6–3) ran through Rutgers (4–5), accumulating 43 points in the first two quarters en route to a 75–61 victory.
“They started two bigs and didn’t start one of their shooters, so it allowed us to effectively put on that press,” BC head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “I loved the way they communicated out of the gate. … I thought [our communication] was a big point of improvement leading up to this point.”
BC dominated the opening minutes, going on a 13–2 run to start the game. JoJo Lacey led the Eagles with four points and a steal during that span. But as BC slowly fell out of its full-court zone press, Rutgers fought back and cut its deficit to two by the end of the first quarter.
The Eagles’ Achilles’ heel of the quarter was their inability to play defense with their feet. Instead, the Eagles overutilized their hands which got them into foul trouble and allowed Rutgers to quickly enter the bonus.
BC’s zone pressure returned almost immediately in the second quarter. After the Eagles took a moment to rest, they continued to make it difficult for Rutgers to move the ball efficiently and find lanes to the hoop.
“Last week we just looked like the bad news, it was just not how we normally play,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “This week, practice had a lot of energy. They really stepped it up. Everyday they brought big time energy, and I would say leading to the jump, it was the most energy this team has had.”
But Rutgers matched the Eagles’ defensive intensity, causing both teams to struggle generating scoring opportunities. Looking for a way to get out of its scoring rut, BC turned to center Maria Gakdeng.
“I saw my matchup in film and the scouting report and knew what I could do,” Gakdeng said.
Gakdeng controlled her mismatch in the paint, dropping 11 first-half points. She forced the Scarlet Knights to either foul or double-team her, which left BC’s shooters open on the wings. Thanks to Gakdeng—who shot 66.7 percent from the field on the game—BC headed into halftime with an 11-point lead.
The Eagles smothered Rutgers on defense to start the second half and went on a 12–3 run to open the third quarter. BC wouldn’t let the Scarlet Knights back into the game, as it kept its foot on the gas pedal with accurate ball movement and capitalized on Rutgers’ mistakes. Lacey added six points and three rebounds in the third quarter to help propel BC to a 23-point lead heading into the final quarter.
The Eagles never let up in the fourth quarter. Gakdeng finished the game with 15 points, and Lacey and Taina Mair contributed 14 points each.
Although BC scored 10 more points than its season average, the X factor of the game was the Eagles’ defense. BC forced 25 Rutgers turnovers, and Mair piled on five steals.
Mair is the only player in the NCAA so far this season to record 10 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, and five steals in a game.
“I don’t look at the stats during the game,” Mair said. “I just happened to be that person.”