Boston College women’s basketball had to wait an extra 16 hours, but it kicked off 2018 in style: After Thursday night’s game was postponed, due to Boston’s snowstorm, the Eagles earned their first ACC win of the season the next morning, beating North Carolina for the second year in a row and snapping a three-game losing streak with a 77-64 victory at Conte Forum.
Powered by Taylor Ortlepp and Andie Anastos—who both strung together career performances—as well as BC’s (6-9, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) two pillars of consistency, Milan Bolden-Morris and Georgia Pineau, the Eagles’ offensive firepower proved to be too much for UNC (10-5, 0-2) to overcome. Ortlepp scored a career-high 23 points, shooting 66.7 percent from the field and a scorching hot 77.4 percent from 3-point land. The sophomore was 5-of-7 from beyond the arc—a repeat performance of her work a year ago, when she poured on five triples in Chapel Hill. Anastos, who is averaging 5.5 points per game, added 13, while Bolden-Morris’s sharpshooting guided her to an 18-point outing and opened up the paint for Pineau to score 15 of her own.
Given BC’s circumstances—having lost seven of its last nine games and only topping the 60-point mark once in the past five—this kind of outcome was monumental. And head coach Erik Johnson knew that as soon as the buzzer sounded.
“I’m really really proud of our players,” Johnson told the ACC Digital Network, following the Eagles’ victory. “We’ve taken some tough losses recently, and for them to keep believing in themselves and for them to keep fighting and keep doing what they know is going to work—it’s just so rewarding to actually have it work in a big-time game like this.”
For the first time all season, the Eagles’ offense looked like a machine, passing the eye test and putting up some of the best statistics the team has recorded all season. BC went 47.5 percent from the field, 52.4 percent from 3-point territory, and 76.9 percent from the line. It came up two points short of its season high, 79 against Houston, but made three more baskets to notch a season-best 28 field goals.
But as good as the Eagles looked on offense in this matchup, their defensive performance was much more important. Giving up 64 points to a Tar Heels team that averages nearly 80 per game is no small feat. It wasn’t all thanks to BC’s defensive effort, though. Perhaps the most telling moment of the contest came in the final minute, as UNC found itself with three open layups, two of which were a byproduct of offensive rebounds, on the same possession. All three rimmed out even though the Eagles’ defense was scrambling to recover each time. Although BC’s defense played a huge part in the Tar Heels’ offensive struggles, UNC was its own worst enemy.
The Tar Heels outrebounded the Eagles, 37-32, with the difference in that margin being on the offensive glass, where UNC held the edge, 16-11. But UNC failed to take advantage of its extra possessions, putting up only two more shots than BC. In addition, the two teams matched each other in the turnover battle, surrendering 11 apiece, but the Tar Heels—a team vaunted for its transition offense—could only garner 15 points off the Eagles’ giveaways, while the home team notched 18 off UNC’s.
Shots, open or not, would not fall for UNC as the game went along. It shot just 36 percent from the field and went a lowly 20 percent from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels’ shooting got worse as the game went on: UNC shot 50 percent in the first quarter, then 20, 37.5, and 31.3 percent in the periods that followed. As it struggled, the Eagles improved: 33.3 percent in the first, then 36.8 in the second, then 60 in the third, and finally a borderline-unfathomable 70 percent in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. When all was said and done, BC drained 11 shots from downtown. Its 33 points from deep more than made the difference.
Up against WNBA prospects, Johnson entered Friday’s game with a realistic mindset.
“With players like Jamie Cherry and Paris Kea, you really can’t stop them completely, you can try to make their lives as difficult as possible,” Johnson told BCEagles.com.
The Eagles did just that. Cherry, who came into the game averaging 26 points in her previous games against BC, went 1-of-11 from the field. Kea—who, before Friday, was the ACC’s leading scorer—went 6-of-17 and 2-of-7 from downtown. Of the nine Tar Heels players that played, six were held to four points or less. Only Janelle Bailey was able to score efficiently, going 8-of-12 from the field to keep affairs close in the second half.
UNC’s lone advantage in the offensive categories came in the form of a 22-13 edge in free throw attempts. UNC got calls, especially down the stretch of this game, but it never overcame the 23-point third quarter where the Australian duo of Pineau and Ortlepp went off. Ortlepp’s 13-point quarter set the pace for BC, most notably when she hit three 3-pointers in three possessions during the final two minutes of the period. Pineau added four points, a rebound, and two assists, acting as the piston through which the offense could fire. Bolden-Morris added two of her four threes, and at the end of the third the Eagles found themselves up 45-35, having led by just one point at halftime.
Any win over a school like UNC is significant. The Tar Heels have a storied program: their head coach Sylvia Hatchell has exactly 1,000 wins, they’re part of the most famous rivalry in college basketball, and, prior to the 2015-16 season, they were typically situated near the top of the ACC standings. That said, Friday’s win came against a UNC team that is currently unranked and now 0-2 in conference play.
When BC defeated the Tar Heels last year, its season was already lost. The Eagles were a mere 2-10 in conference play, and, in all likelihood, would have had to have won the ACC Tournament in order to book a ticket to the big dance.
This time around, with close to two months of the regular season remaining, BC’s victory comes at a point when it can still right the ship.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor