With five teams ranked in the AP Top 25, the ACC has proved to be one of the most competitive conferences in women’s college basketball this season. After Sunday’s thrilling victory over Florida State, Boston College women’s basketball head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee spoke about just how challenging competition in the ACC really is.
“We’re not going to play anyone easy in this conference,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
BC was reminded of this Thursday night when Syracuse visited the Eagles—who had won six of their last seven games prior to the contest.
Plagued by turnovers and inconsistent defense, BC (13–6, 3–3 Atlantic Coast) fell to Syracuse (13–4, 4–2) 83–73 inside Conte Forum. Despite several comeback efforts after being down by 10-plus points for most of the second half, the Eagles never regained their lead.
The Orange received help from guards Dyaisha Fair and Alaina Rice, and BC had no answers defensively. Fair and Rice totaled 25 points and 17 points, respectively, and both shot over 50 percent from the field individually.
Four Eagles scored in double figures, including Taina Mair and Dontavia Waggoner, but defensive shortcomings loomed too large for BC.
Both teams jumped out to a frantic start, as turnovers were the early theme. The teams combined for 13 turnovers in the first quarter, which led to a quick pace and numerous transition opportunities.
“When you turn over the ball a gazillion times, it makes it hard to get set, and transition defense is where [Syracuse] wants to live in,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
The back-and-forth action resulted in long breakout passes and fastbreak points. After the first quarter, the Orange led 21–18.
Syracuse went on a 10–0 run to build a 12-point advantage at the 4:08 mark of the second quarter. Back-to-back Teisha Hyman buckets capped off the run. But BC responded by scoring nine consecutive points over the final four minutes of the half to bring its deficit within three.
A 15–3 Syracuse stretch to begin the second half—in which the Orange recorded 6-of-8 shooting from the field—gave Syracuse its comfortable lead back. The Orange were in front by about 10 points for the entirety of the third quarter.
“We didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball and making decisions on the offensive end, which put us in a scramble mode a bit on the defensive end,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
In the fourth quarter, BC struggled to stay disciplined on the perimeter, and the Orange had countless open looks from beyond the arc. Syracuse shot 50 percent from 3-point range on the night.
“At times, I thought we looked really good defensively, but, as a whole, I thought there were more stretches where we didn’t look good,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
The Eagles mounted one final comeback attempt late in the fourth quarter. Down 63–50 with just over eight minutes left to play, BC rallied to get within four points of the Orange and pulled within one possession after a JoJo Lacey 3-pointer made the score 67–64.
But BC’s offense fizzled, and the Eagles committed crucial turnovers on three of the next four possessions in the closing minutes. Syracuse went on to ice the game at the free throw line.
“I sensed us not being focused,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “I don’t think it was fatigue, I think it was just us needing to take care of the ball a little bit better.”
The Eagles shot 36 percent from the field in the second half and finished the game with 22 turnovers.
“We just need to take better care of the ball, and I’m going to revisit what I could have done differently on the coaching end,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “Hopefully we see a whole different team coming out in our next game.”