After back-to-back, double-digit losses, including a 16-point defeat to Virginia on Jan. 17, Boston College women’s basketball’s head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee was adamant about forcing turnovers early and often.
But on Thursday night in Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center—one of the most aptly named arenas in college basketball—that mindset could not keep the Eagles from forcing costly turnovers of their own.
With 24 total turnovers, BC tacked on another loss against the juggernaut Cardinals, who registered 20 points off Eagles’ turnovers. BC (13–8, 3–5 Atlantic Coast) rode a 19–2 run in the second quarter and fought hard down the stretch to go neck-and-neck with Louisville in the fourth, but the Cardinals (15–6, 6–2) ultimately came out on top 73–65.
BC was already facing a 20–9 deficit at the end of the first quarter. A slew of turnovers plagued both teams out of the gate, as the Eagles turned the ball over 10 times and the Cardinals turned the ball over seven times in the first 10 minutes of action. The fuel behind Louisville’s 10–0 first-quarter run was junior guard Hailey Van Lith, who contributed five of the Cardinals’ 20 points while also grabbing two rebounds.
Van Lith was a problem all game, posting 24 points and six rebounds. Averaging 22.6 points per game heading into Thursday’s contest, Van Lith is one of the top contenders for Conference Player of the Year, and it was critical for the Eagles to gameplan for her, and to utilize their physicality.
“She got to shoot 10 free throws,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “It was a physical game, and I thought we got penalized for our physicality. I think she [Van Lith] is a great player.”
BC found its mojo in the second quarter, shooting 56.3 percent from the field and erasing an 11-point deficit. The Eagles outscored the Cardinals 22–12, and junior guard Dontavia Waggoner was at the helm of the offensive success.
Three minutes into the quarter, Waggoner made a clutch steal-and-score and gave possession back to the Eagles right after drawing a charging call, which brought it to a 6-point game. Sophomore Andrea Daley drove the ball through the paint and notched a layup, tying the game 27–27 three minutes later.
“People stepped up and made big plays,” Brenabei-McNamee said. “During that stretch, not only did we not turn over the ball that much, but we also rebounded the ball really well. We’ve still got to get a lot better at scoring each time down.”
BC committed more turnovers in the first half than in any other game this season, giving the ball away 15 times in the first 20 minutes. This did not bode well for the Eagles, who fell to 1–7 on the year when trailing at half.
“We have to be sure to control our controllables and take care of the ball,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “That really killed us tonight.”
The Eagles were down by one point going into the third quarter, and went pound-for-pound with the Cardinals, but were still down 50–48 heading into the fourth. BC couldn’t contain Van Lith, who went to line after some chippiness and a technical foul assessed to Daley five minutes into the third quarter, which proved to be a big turning point that contributed to the loss.
“I was pretty disheartened with the outcome of that,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “I know no player said a word on my team, and one player got a ball thrown at her. I thought that was an overdramatic outcome.”
BC did show offensive muscle, as it got points up and down the roster. JoJo Lacey put up 15 points, and Ally VanTimmermen notched 13 of her own. Freshman star Taina Mair led the team with 16 while Waggoner had eight.
“We have a very unselfish team,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “This game, they would say, was a fun game to play in. But we want to win those games, and we have got to find a way to win.”
The Eagles tied the game 50–50 just 23 seconds into the fourth quarter, and went back-and-forth for much of the period. Down by two with just over six minutes to play, a costly turnover gave Louisville the ball. But BC drew back, as Mair hit a layup to even the game 57–57.
The Cardinals surged as time winded down, and even as the Eagles fought back, Van Lith and company were too strong to handle. Louisville ended the game with a 6-point run that led to the Cardinals’ victory.
“We got to take care of the ball, and again make sure to control our controllables. If teams are going to score on us, we want them to earn those points and not get them from turnovers turned into easy offense.”