Frustrated, Erik Johnson was forced to call a timeout.
Boston College women’s basketball had the same result on several consecutive plays in the first quarter. Georgia Tech would score, Taylor Ortlepp or Georgia Pineau would bring the ball out, and within the first 10 seconds of the Eagles’ offensive possession, they’d turn the ball over. The Yellow Jackets’ swarm of undersized guards would race down the court, pulling away from BC’s defenders, for the easy fast-break layup.
Johnson thought it best to talk it over with his team. Find a way to stop the bleeding, whether it was shoring up BC’s approach to Georgia Tech’s heavy press, or simply cutting out the mental mistakes.
Yet as soon as play came back, nothing changed. Another turnover for BC led to a steal by the Jackets’ Imani Tilford. This time, the result was a 3-pointer by Antonia Peresson to push the Eagles’ deficit to nine.
“There’s turnovers,” Johnson said, “and then there’s turnovers that give them easy baskets on the other end.”
In total, the Eagles committed 27 turnovers on Thursday night against the Ramblin’ Wreck, allowing 31 points off of them, a recurring problem for them this season. Though the Eagles significantly cut the deficit late, their mistakes dug them a 17-point hole midway through the second quarter. And it was too large to climb out of in a 71-67 defeat at home.
The Yellow Jackets (12-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) are built around only one player above six feet: guard, Francesca Pan. The rest of head coach MaChelle Joseph’s primary contributors, however, are well under that. Theoretically, that’s a matchup that should work well for BC (8-9, 1-3), which has an offense that runs through 6-foot-4 center Mariella Fasoula.
Sure enough, that was the Eagles’ plan of attack. Fasoula came out in the first quarter able to dominate with her signature ice-cream scoop move over Georgia Tech’s bigger players, who often don’t play a lot of minutes. Fasoula finished with 22 points and seven boards in 32 minutes. And when Fasoula tired out, Johnson subbed in 6-foot-3 freshman Emma Guy to go over the top of Georgia Tech’s guards. She contributed a strong 11-point effort, more than half of which came in the fourth quarter.
Yet, like the Australian tandem of Ortlepp and Pineau, Guy was susceptible to giving up the ball. In total, the three freshmen combined for 14 of BC’s 27 turnovers. After the game, Johnson recognized the need to find that balance of playing his younger girls while also helping them understand their mistakes.
“How do you hold some of these young players accountable so that they understand how important every single possession is and how important discipline is, while still bringing along their confidence and helping them believe in themselves?” Johnson said. “It’s still a work in progress, but I have high hopes for those kids.”
Still, with BC’s mistakes and Pan and Co. firing up threes, they opened up a sizeable gap.
Yet in the third quarter, the Eagles began to protect the ball. Fasoula began pulling down rebounds with fervor, sometimes even tucking them in with one hand. Ortlepp drove to the paint without giving the ball up in the process. The team forced Georgia Tech into the bonus early, and Kelly Hughes continued to rain down from beyond the arc. Simply by keeping onto the ball, BC had immeasurably more success.
“I remember telling them, ‘We’re scoring points now because we’re not giving them the basketball,’” Johnson said.
But the damage had been done. Though BC kept the pressure on, that pitiful first half was too much to overcome. Despite their best efforts, the Eagles couldn’t get it back to even a one-possession game. Against a team that he believes they can beat, Johnson can take away some positives, but his hatred of losing sticks out the most.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in way too many ways,” Johnson said. “Our team never gives up, we never go away, but we dug ourselves too big a hole.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor