Boston College (14-13, 3-11 ACC) is not good and the Louisville women’s basketball team (24-2, 11-2 ACC) should win easily on Sunday afternoon. Thank you for your time.
OK, OK. Maybe I’m a bit frustrated with some other corners of UofL’s athletic department. But the fourth ranked women are rolling into March at a steady clip and have a firm grip on second place in the ACC. A slow first half against Virginia had many afraid that the specter of Miami still haunted Jeff Walz’s squad. But a back to form second half put the Cavaliers, and any Hurricane hangover, squarely in the rear-view mirror.
And it’s true to say Boston College isn’t that great. The Eagles sit third to last in the ACC with a 3 and 11 conference record and their only three conference wins having come against Duke, Wake Forest, and Pitt. Those teams just so happen to be the three other teams currently dwelling in the basement with BC.
Eagles head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee (Coach Mac) is in her first year with the Eagles after stints with Albany and Pikeville (KY). Joining her, among others, is a familiar face in Louisville alum A.J. Cohen. Coach Mac and staff have begun the slow yet steady climb with a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2010-2011. Their 14 wins have already doubled last year’s total, and three conference wins is one better than last year’s performance. Jeff Walz often goes out of his way to give credit to the hard work and early successes of Bernabei-McNamee and staff.
And, as with any contest, overlooking your opponent is the number one no-no. How can the Cardinals keep up the head of steam going into their final three regular season games? Let’s break it down.
Try Eagles Try
The Eagles have had three different starting point guards this season, but are currently led by freshman, and occasional forward, Taylor Soule up top. Junior Australian guard Taylor Ortlepp is BC’s primary perimeter threat and has recently returned to the court after a three game stretch on the bench with injury. The team in general isn’t afraid to fire it up from range, even if their success rate isn’t exactly praiseworthy. BC is shooting 32.6% from beyond the arc on the season, but over their past three games have gone 8 for 66. Yeah, you read that right. That’s 12.1%. If Jeff Walz had his guards lay off and pack the interior just to see what happens, you couldn’t blame him. Odds are it’s a worthwhile strategy.
In terms of offense, junior forward Emma Guy is the gal to watch out for. Her simple solution to having a good three point shooting percentage is to not shoot three pointers; she hasn’t made an attempt all season. Her team leading 14.0 point and 6.4 rebound per game average is strictly the result of hard work in the paint. With the way the Eagles shoot from outside, it should prove to be no large risk for the Cardinals defense to collapse in on Guy in an attempt to limit her options. Besides that, Bionca Dunham and Sam Fuehring should match-up well with her and have a good chance of owning the battle on the boards.
But even if the Eagles do have a strong day offensively, they’re not exactly a defensive force with which to be reckoned. Their fifth best in conference play 70.2 points per game is heavily offset by their conference worst 84.6 points allowed. Conference opponents have averaged 40.5% from three-point range with an average 6.5 made threes per game. Essentially, let them shoot, and see what happens. Odds are you’ll get the rebound and have plenty of opportunities in the front court.
In conference play, the Louisville Cardinals are the most accurate three-point shooting team in the ACC, and 10th best in the nation to boot. That bodes well against a Boston College team that hasn’t had a lot of luck defending the perimeter. Dana Evans is 44.6% on 83 attempts and making a very strong case for 6th-player of the year. Leading scorer and multiple-award finalist Asia Durr may not be quite as on target, but leads the team in three-point baskets made at 68 for an average of nearly three per game. And when Durr has experienced her (relative) slumps, teammates like Evans, Carter, Jones, and even Robinson have shown the capability needed to step up and spark the Louisville offense. As an example, Evans coming off the bench now has the second highest scoring average with 10.6 PPG.
This one’s all about energy. Against Virginia, the Cardinals came out flat. It’s perfectly understandable, given the disappointment against Miami. But the positive note to be taken was that, after trailing for the first time all season at the half, they came out firing in the second half to make it a runaway. It’s been traditional this season for Louisville to have at least on lackadaisical quarter or, as Sam Purcell calls them, smoke breaks. What would be nice to see on Sunday is a full four quarters of intense effort from an energized Louisville team. Against a team like Boston College that may result in a laughable blowout, but now’s the time for the Cardinals to be transitioning into tournament mode.
The Louisville women will honor Black History Month and the Harlem Renaissance with special throwback uniforms on Sunday afternoon. That’s more than fitting, as the Cardinals seem to be taking things in Stride.
Boston College – #4 Taylor Ortlepp (Jr.-G), #5 Georgia Pineau (Jr.-F), #13 Taylor Soule (Fr.-F), #11 Emma Guy (Jr.-F), #10 Makayla Dickens (Fr.-G)
Louisville – Durr, Carter, Jones, Dunham, Fuehring
Date: Sunday, 24 Feb
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST
Site: KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Radio: WKRD-790 / Video: ACCNE-WatchESPN