Duke’s Defense Wreaks Havoc in Decisive Victory Over Eagles

boston college women's basketball

The odds were stacked against Boston College women’s basketball when it traveled to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday night. Rolling into Durham, N.C. on a four-game losing streak, BC—the second-lowest scoring team in the conference—was up against the 29th-best defense in the country and the top-ranked unit in the ACC. Throughout the year, the Blue Devils had held opponents to a mere 56.5 points per game. The mismatch didn’t bode well for the Eagles, as Duke, led by Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell, pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back, topping BC for the third-consecutive year, 75-50.

Right from the get-go, both teams ran in transition, pushing the ball up the court. It wasn’t always pretty. In fact, the two sides combined for a total of seven turnovers in the first quarter. Eventually, the game settled down, four minutes in, and the No. 18 Blue Devils (16-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast) and Eagles (6-14, 1-5) took to the half court offense.

Duke was clearly running a very complex offense with lots of screens and cross-court passes. The Blue Devils routinely drove into the lane, and looked to kick the ball out to an open shooter for a perimeter shot. Early on, the dribble-drive worked to near perfection, creating a lot of open shots for Brown, who finished the quarter with 14 points. The Eagles, on the other hand, tried a different strategy. BC attacked the paint, dishing the ball to Emma Guy down low. Positioned inside, the talented sophomore forward could either attempt a shot herself or find a cutting teammate on the weak side. The chances were there, but the execution was not, and the Blue Devils strung together a 16-0 run with five minutes left in the half. Already, the Eagles were down, 24-14, at the end of one period.

The second quarter was more of the same, with Duke continuing to score at will from behind the 3-point line, going 5-of-10 from long range in the frame. The sharp shooting along with a high-pressure defense baffled head coach Erik Johnson’s team and forced a handful of Eagles turnovers. Capitalizing on loose balls and riding Greenwell served Duke well in the second quarter. Along with Brown, the second “splash sister” lit up the BC defense from downtown, finishing the half with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. BC had its chances inside, but again, poor finishing, wayward passes, and unnecessary offensive fouls killed these opportunities, allowing Duke to take an even larger lead, nearly doubling the Eagles’ score.

BC didn’t get off to the start it was looking for after intermission. Instead, Duke’s unrelenting scoring duo of Greenwell and Brown kept on piling on buckets. The Blue Devils are third in the ACC in 3-point shooting and they showed why on Thursday, attempting 18 triples and making eight of them, hovering around the 44-percent mark from 3-point land on the night.

To make matters worse, Duke’s swarming man defense caused more Eagles mistakes, namely turnovers, and, of course, fatigue. As time went on, sloppy mental errors, in addition to errant passes, dictated BC’s play. The Eagles have a notably short bench, with very few non-starters making an impact. They finished with only eight total bench points, whereas Duke logged 29 in that department. The one bright spot for BC was Guy, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds to secure her fourth double-double of the season. But the 6-foot-3 sophomore had to sit out the end of the third quarter with foul trouble and eventually injured her ankle later on in the fourth frame, effectively putting an end to BC’s offensive output for the evening.

The final quarter did not get any better for the Eagles, with Duke’s reserves playing to the level that its starters had over the course of the opening three periods. Notably, BC’s leading scorer, Milan Bolden-Morris, was held scoreless for the entire game, finishing with just two rebounds and three turnovers.

One of the biggest differences in the contest was star output. Bolden-Morris, Georgia Pineau, and Taylor Ortlepp—the Eagles’ three-leading scorers—were all held in check, while Duke’s splash sisters, Brown and Greenwell, shined, combining for 38 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

But, scoring aside, the Eagles didn’t even do the little things to give themselves a chance to upset Duke. BC coughed up the ball 20 or more times for the fourth-straight game and shot below 60 percent from the charity stripe. If the Eagles are to beat ACC opponents on the road, let alone a ranked one, they’re going to have to start playing fundamental basketball. Otherwise, there’s no telling when BC will reenter the win column.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff