The Boston College women’s basketball team (14-11, 3-9 ACC) knew they were facing a tough competitor when the reigning national champion No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-3, 10-2 ACC) came to Chestnut Hill on Wednesday night. Although the Eagles suffered their biggest loss of the season at the hands of the Fighting Irish, 97-47, their effort and attitude didn’t reflect the scoreboard.
Just over two weeks ago, the Eagles had suffered their first defeat at the hands of then No. 1 Notre Dame, losing instead by a much "smaller" margin of 29. The Eagles had, in fact, put up 63 points in that game, one of the six ACC teams to score 60+ points against the Fighting Irish this season.
So what was the missing factor in this game? Taylor Ortlepp.
BC is sorely missing Ortlepp’s offense as she has been one of their top scorers all season. She has been out with an ankle injury since the Virginia Tech game on Feb. 3, and since then, BC has lost all its games.
The last time the Eagles beat Notre Dame was in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, when BC ultimately fell in the Sweet Sixteen in a tight loss to Utah. Since then, BC has not returned to the tournament, while Notre Dame has made it every year.
Notre Dame’s experience certainly showed against this young group of Eagles. Led by senior Arike Ogunbowale, who scored 23 points in the game and dished out seven assists, the Irish picked the Eagles apart. The experience and talent of Ogunbowale and other seniors proved that no matter how good this young BC team is, it is still going to be a rebuilding year. Learning experiences like this game will be crucial as the Eagles seek to rise up the ranks in the ACC in the upcoming years.
It was clear from the get-go how good Notre Dame really is—winning the tip off, getting their first layup, sinking another layup with an "and-one" foul shot, and Ogunbowale splashing a three pointer. All before BC was even on the board.
The Fighting Irish opened the game on an 8-0 run. Later in the first quarter, they had a 10-0 run that gave them the lead over the Eagles, which they would hold on to for the rest of the contest. However, strong defense late in the first by the Eagles kept the score to a respectable 22-11 through the first 10 minutes. Notably, the Eagles forced a shot clock violation and eight Irish turnovers in that stretch.
BC’s troubles in the game came mainly from shooting, an area where Ortlepp typically shines. In the first quarter, they shot just 15.8% from the field, which did improve to 30.5% for the game. Usually decent from beyond the arc, they instead went an abysmal 1-21, with Milan Bolden-Morris scoring the lone three-pointer in the second quarter.
Some bright spots for BC were Taylor Soule and Georgia Pineau. Soule shot 71.4%, finishing with a team high 11 points, adding three rebounds and two steals. Pineau shot 80%, finishing with eight points, six rebounds, and a block.
Where Notre Dame really excelled was in the paint. Despite BC's own strength at rebounding, the Fighting Irish out-rebounded the Eagles 48-29, with 16 offensive rebounds, and put up quick points from right under the net from second-chance buckets. 58 of their 97 points were in the paint, where BC just couldn’t defend them efficiently.
Although down by 50-plus for most of the fourth quarter, the Eagles looked determined to end the game on a high note. Their grit and willpower showed, and they scored 18 of their 47 points in the last quarter. BC defense also held the Irish to just nine points.
Notre Dame’s offense was nearly unstoppable inside the arc, but, if not for BC’s tough defensive work, this game could’ve been worse. BC played hard and matched the Irish’s intensity for the full 40 minutes, ultimately falling by a score of 97-47.
It will be hard for the Eagles to finish the season on a high-note. Their last four games include matches against No. 2 Louisville and No. 16 Syracuse, while also taking on UNC and Clemson. However, if they win at least one of these games, they will finish the season with a winning record for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Boston College takes on Clemson next, playing Saturday, Feb. 16, at 1 p.m. in Chestnut Hill. The game is both the Annual Alumni Game and also the Play 4 Kay Initiative Game, where all fans are encouraged to wear pink.
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