In Thursday night’s tilt with ACC foe Miami, the Boston College women’s basketball team managed to stave off a strong, fast and physical Miami to squeak out a 63-62 victory over its conference rival, moving to 11-7 on the year.
Miami came out of the gates playing a hard and fast brand of basketball, crashing the offensive boards relentlessly, something that Eagles’ head coach Erik Johnson was prepping his team for all week. The team ran rebounding drills in practice, letting over-the-back fouls go and bringing in guys to practice with them to simulate Miami’s aggressive style.
Leading the early charge for Miami was sophomore forward Keyona Hayes, who totaled 11 rebounds in the first half, five of which were offensive, which she often converted into acrobatic put-back layups on her way to a first half double-double. The Eagles caught a break when Hayes, one of Miami’s two biggest weapons, got into foul trouble early in the second half. She picked up her fourth foul with 12 minutes to play, causing Miami head coach Katie Meier to remove her from the game for a good stretch of time.
Both teams were playing hard-nosed basketball early, with BC playing a 2-3 zone in an attempt to quell Miami’s aggressive paint attack, which ultimately accounted for 30 of the Hurricane’s points. While the Eagles sat back on defense and let the offense come to them, the Hurricanes were simply a different animal. They pressured BC’s ball handlers Lauren Engeln and Kristen Doherty full court for the entirety of the game. Engeln and Doherty did a phenomenal job beating the pressure in the first half, although Engeln encountered some second half troubles down the stretch when the Hurricanes brought on full court 1-3-1 pressure.
“It was about letting the traps come to you because there’s so many openings behind it” sophomore guard Nicole Boudreau said of Miami’s pressure. “As long as we keep our composure, don’t turn the ball over, and just make ball fakes … we could break it.”
The Hurricanes’ aggressive style of play got them out in front early, putting them up by nine with eight minutes left to play in the first half.
“We didn’t flinch when we were down almost double digits in the first half,” Johnson said. “The potential is for us to get down … but our team does a good job of finding the next thing we need to do to be successful.”
Freshman guard Kelly Hughes turned out to be that next thing. The Eagles moved the ball around the perimeter against Miami’s 3-2 defensive front, a shape it stayed in all game knowing BC’s penchant for the deep ball. On her way to 14 points in the contest, Hughes received a dish from Doherty on the left foul line. She extended and jacked up an arching three ball that dropped with a swoosh through the net.
On the next Eagles possession, Hughes caught a pass in the exact same spot and took another three, which this time fell short, just kissing the front of the rim. Undeterred, the 5-foot-11 New Jersey native followed her shot, collected the rebound and finished the layup to ignite a 17-7 BC run to close out the first half, with Miami nursing a 28-27 lead heading into the locker room.
BC inbounded the ball to start the second half, with junior forward Kat Cooper driving to the rim and getting to the line before sinking both shots and giving BC its second lead of the night, 29-28. That would not be an advantage BC would hold onto however, as the lead changed 13 times over the course of the contest in addition to being tied six separate times as the two ACC teams dueled for an edge.
While the beginning of the first half of the game was characterized by missed shots and rebounds, the beginning of the second half saw a marked shooting improvement from both squads as all the players on the floor seemed to find their stroke. BC came out with an elevated toughness as well, something recent member of the 1,000 point-club Katie Zenevitch demonstrated when she missed a shot as the shot clock expired, muscled her way to a rebound, and finished after ducking under the other side of the hoop. Soon after, Boudreau exhibited some toughness of her own as she took the rock to rack and showed impressive body control after being bumped in the air and finishing the layup anyway.
The hard-fought nature of the game put both teams in the bonus with four to play. BC took full advantage of its chances from the charity stripe, hitting 13 of its first 14 from the line, helping the team stay in the game.
As the game clock started to wind down, BC’s biggest players stepped up. Doherty, with the ball in the right corner and less than five seconds on the shot clock, pump faked a defender, put the ball on the floor, and took a pull up baseline jumper, sinking the crucial bucket to give BC back a three-point lead. Boudreau, on the Eagles’ next possession, squared up to the hoop from deep and drilled a 23-foot dagger, an NBA three, to give her team its biggest lead of the night at 63-57, with a minute and a half to play.
“I heard my teammates counting down,” said Boudreau, the game’s leading scorer with 21 points. “I see the hoop, I see the ball, I just shot it.”
Miami, however, wouldn’t quit, as sophomore guard Caprice Dennis hit a contested three of her own to bring the Hurricanes within one, 63-62, with just 51 seconds left on the clock.
After BC was called for a travel on its ensuing possession, Miami found itself in the driver’s seat, down by one, with 25 seconds to play. Miami took its time, not wanting to give BC a chance to respond, before attacking. Freshman guard Adrienne Motley attacked the rim, lofting the ball up in the air. It sat on the rim for a brief moment, suspended, before falling into the waiting hands of Miami’s Maria Brown, whose put-back attempt got stuffed by the bottom of the rim and rolled out of bounds, giving BC the ball.
A Miami foul with 2.4 seconds to play put Doherty on the line, who missed both, but it did not matter, as Miami was unable to get off a final, half-court desperation heave before the final buzzer sounded, sealing BC’s thrilling one-point victory.
“We were just tough enough to hang on for one last play,” Johnson said. “We just got tougher, and hopefully we continue to do that.”