BOSTON — A well-timed timeout helped No. 1 Louisville turn things around against Boston College and avoid a second loss in a row.
Coming off their first loss of the season, the top-ranked Cardinals led BC just 33-30 on Thursday night when coach Jeff Walz brought his team together midway through the second quarter. They responded with 14 straight points on their way to a 97-68 victory over the Eagles.
“We’ve talked about it: You’re season’s not defined with one or two games,” Walz said. “Players can’t allow that to happen.”
Dana Evans scored 23 points and Hailey Van Lith added 15 for the Cardinals, who had been the last unbeaten team in the AP Top 25 before losing at home to No. 4 North Carolina State on Monday. They had Tuesday off, and then second-leading scorer Olivia Cochran sprained her knee in practice on Wednesday.
“There was no sense to try to get her out there to play,” Walz said. “As soon as Olivia went down, I knew we were going to have to change things up.”
Kianna Smith scored 14 points, Elizabeth Dixon had 11 and Mykasa Robinson grabbed eight rebounds for the Cardinals (17-1, 10-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Taylor Soule had 20 points and Makayla Dickens scored 17 for Boston College (5-8, 1-8 ACC), which had its previous four games postponed because of COVID-19 protocols.
“I think there was mental fatigue,” coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “We had a lot of mental mistakes. I will say that’s probably due to us having a short bench and not having a lot of prep time.”
Dickens made 5 of 6 3-pointers, one of them to tie the game at 33 midway through the second quarter. But Louisville scored the next 14 points and BC never got within single digits again.
Evans had six points and Dixon had five during the game-changing run, when the Eagles went more than four minutes without scoring.
Evans, the reigning ACC player of the year, also had four rebounds and five assists. She said Walz called the team out for not being physical enough against N.C. State.
“He got us motivated,” she said. “Louisville basketball has always been known for toughness and defense and getting after it.”
Louisville was also without Elizabeth Balogun, who is in Atlanta training with the Nigerian national team for the Olympics. Walz said Balogun will return on Saturday and be able to play on Sunday against Notre Dame.
The Eagles were down to eight players because of COVID-19 protocols. Two of them, Allie Palmieri and Ally VanTimmeren, are first-semester freshmen who graduated from high school early to enroll at BC.
The Cardinals moved to the top of the AP poll on Jan. 18 for the first time in school history. They might not survive the week as the No. 1 team in the country because of the N.C. State loss, but they should avoid a major drop.
Boston College hasn’t won since Jan. 7 and hadn’t played since Jan. 17 before shutting the program down for almost three weeks because of COVID-19 protocols. Coming off a 20-win season in which Bernabei-McNamee was named ACC coach of the year, the Eagles were expected to do more.
Louisville: Hosts Notre Dame on Sunday.
Boston College: Visits Clemson on Sunday.