Bump In The Road

Sixteen minutes remained in the game when Kelly Hughes made her second 3-pointer, reducing No. 9 UNC’s lead over the Boston College women’s basketball team to six points. With two possessions separating the squads, and with some time still left in the half, BC seemed poised to compete with one of the most prolific offenses in the ACC.

Instead, UNC widened the extant gap, thwarting BC’s attempts at making a comeback with responsive offensive plays and intense defensive pressure. Over the course of those last 16 minutes, the 6-point deficit—caused by Hughes’ shot—expanded into a 17-point one, as UNC secured a 73-56 victory over hapless BC.

In spite of the final score, the contest was relatively close through the first half and into the second, up until the collapse. Early in the game, the teams struggled on both the offensive and defensive ends, keeping the scores close.

UNC’s offense seemed to be in flux. At points, the squad’s attack seemed uninhibited—with players driving and scoring at will. One such player was freshman guard Diamond DeShields, who grabbed an offensive rebound, collected an assist, and scored seven points within three minutes’ time. However, at other points, UNC’s play came across as lethargic: the squad once turned over the ball on a shot clock violation, completely unaware that time was winding down.

While UNC bounded between scoring sprees and stasis, BC consistently failed to score from beyond the perimeter— an offensive staple for the team. Sophomore guard Nicole Boudreau, who helped BC win against Miami with solid long-range shooting, could not score, missing her three 3-point attempts. Hughes also had difficulty in the beginning, making only one of her four shots from beyond the arc. By halftime, the squad had made only one of its 10 3-point attempts: 10 percent of its shots from outside.

Additionally, the team could not prevent UNC from recovering its missed shots, as the opposing players collected 10 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes of play.

“Our box outs have been solid,” BC assistant coach Yvonne Hawkins said at halftime. “They’re coming up with some loose ball [recoveries].”

Though the team struggled with both long-range shooting and defensive rebounding in the first half, decent mid-range shooting kept UNC from pulling away with the lead. Forward Kristen Doherty made three of six shots—acting as a consistent offensive threat—and center Katie Zenevitch made two jump shots.

By the conclusion of the first half, largely because of second chance opportunities, UNC led BC by seven points, 32-25. But the deficit would grow much larger during the second half, as BC struggled to overcome its shooting woes and UNC’s offensive spurts paired with stellar defense.

While the team’s 3-point shooting significantly improved—because of Hughes, who made three of four outside shots during the half—the squad’s inside and mid-range shooting declined. UNC clogged passing lanes and established a formidable defensive presence. Faced with this pressure, BC faltered: Doherty and Zenevitch were particularly impacted, making a combined three of 11 shots in the final 20 minutes.

“When it came time to get a score, we just couldn’t get to the rim,” BC head coach Erik Johnson said after the game. “[And when] we could get by them … we couldn’t [finish].”

While BC struggled to make shots, UNC surged offensively: Forward Xylina McDaniel made three of four field goals and—after drawing fouls—made six free throws, scoring 12 points in the second half. Brittany Rountree, who scored no points in the first half, contributed a decisive boost— scoring five points within a minute’s time.

Consistency accompanied the surge. Guard Allisha Gray, who scored 10 points in the first half, contributed an additional six points in the second— making two of four 3-point shots.

Over the course of the final 20 minutes, UNC scored 41 points. As a whole, the team made 11 of 24 field goals in the second half for a field goal percentage of nearly 46 percent. Comparatively, BC scored 29 points, making nine of 28 field goals, approximately 32 percent of its shots.

Despite falling behind in the second half and losing 73-56 to UNC, BC exhibited some decent play. The team held a UNC team that averaged 85 points per game to a dozen points below its typical final score and vied with a top-ranked team through the first half. Additionally, the squad won—albeit barely—the turnover game against UNC, a team that leads the ACC in the steals per game category with 12.9.

But BC did come up short, performing inconsistently. Three-point shooting proved a major concern. Over the course of the season, Boudreau and Hughes have combined for 81 3-pointers, but the two sharpshooters have struggled to score against top-tier competitors. Against No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Duke, No. 3 Stanford, and No. 9 UNC, Boudreau and Hughes made nine 3-pointers in 39 attempts. Additionally, size disadvantages have been a factor: UNC’s 6-foot-3 forward Stephanie Mavunga and 6-foot-2 McDaniel, who combined for four blocks in the previous game, were able to stifle BC’s inside game.

But Johnson believes that an answer will come for these troubles: an answer that develops more and more with each passing game— even the losses.

“This is how you build a program,” Johnson said. “We need to get deeper, you need to build experience, and it all starts right here.”