Eagles Prepare For South Florida

The Boston College women's basketball team missed the NCAA tournament, but has not missed their opportunity to extend their season in the NIT. The young Eagles have made it to the final four and prepare for their semi-final match-up with South Florida. Coach Sylvia Crawley took time to talk with Eagle Insider about their game tonight against the Bulls.

"It's not the Final Four we initially hoped for," chuckled coach Sylvia Crawley, reflecting on her team's run to the WNIT semifinals. "But our players are starting to get excited. People at Boston College are starting to get excited. And we're the only ACC team that's still playing."

Fittingly enough, the ACC's last hope in women's basketball has had to run through a gauntlet of Big East teams – St. John's and Georgetown last week, and now, South Florida on Wednesday night in the semifinal at Conte Forum.

"There are some similarities between [Big East teams and ACC teams]," said Crawley. "They're really athletic teams, and strong teams. Most of their post players are penetrators. They press a lot… every game for us gets tougher and tougher. But I think that our tough schedule in the ACC in February prepared us well for this.

The USF Bulls (25-10) have yet to play an ACC team this year. The Eagles (23-11) are 2-2 against the Big East.

"[USF] is an up-tempo team," said Crawley. "Transition is going to be key. We also need to control the tempo of the game, and make sure we don't get into a track meet with them."

"We approach this game a bit like how we approach Miami in the ACC, because they're such an athletic team… so we've focused a lot on transition defense, and getting up and down the floor."

Senior captain Corey Rusin will return to action on Wednesday after missing the game against Georgetown with a sprained ankle.

"I thought she moved well in practice," Crawley said. "Her lateral movement was questionable, because [the ankle] is just a little stiff, since she hasn't been running on it. She'll be able to work those kinks out tomorrow. We did a pretty good warm-up with her before practice just to make sure she's ready to go full speed. She can't jump like she's used to, so we told her that she has to use her body and play smarter."

"She's a mentally tough kid, and very aggressive. She's not just going to watch her senior season end."

One upside to Rusin's absence was increased playing time for freshman Jasmine Gill. Gill played ten minutes on Sunday after playing five last Thursday against St. John's.

"I haven't really made a conscious effort to say that we're going to play our freshmen more, but circumstances dictate that we're going to have to. The deeper you go into April, the more tired everyone's legs get, and the more you need everyone on your team to contribute," Crawley said.

"Our players have to be ready to make the most of their opportunity, and contribute to the team right away, because every possession is critical. You can give up six or nine points in one minute – we've seen it happen this year –and in tournament games that can be enough to beat you, so everyone has to be prepared right away.

"With Rusin out, [Gill] saw a few more minutes. Lately, she's really been turning the corner – particularly on defense. Defense is a place where she used to take breaks. But not anymore. She took a charge for the first time in the St. John's game, and really played well defensively against Georgetown… In practice, I always ask my players questions, instead of just telling them what they're doing wrong, and now, my freshmen are the ones answering the questions. That means the light bulb is going on for them. As long as that happens, they can expect to play more."

While missing the NCAA tournament was disappointing for the young Eagles, Crawley feels that the experience of going deep in this tournament could be key in helping them prepare for next season – when they hope to contend for a different Final Four.

"We're getting experience that no other ACC team is getting right now," she said. "When you're a young team, you want to play as many games in the postseason as possible. Last year, they'd get to 32 games and hit a brick wall. Now, we've stretched their bodies past 32 games, and past March. I can't begin to tell you how valuable that is. They now fully understand the kind of conditioning they'll need to do to go deep next year. That's not necessarily something you can teach."

"They've also had to be very mentally tough, because there's so little turnaround between games, which is a good preparation for playing in [the NCAA tournament]. They've learned the importance of proper rest, and eating right at this time of year. This experience really is invaluable to a young team."

"Both teams are tired," she continued. "South Florida played the same day we played, then flew right in here and practiced. The turnaround is short. We're both tired, and we've both got very good teams, and it really is going to come down to who wants it. And I'm confident that we want it."

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