In March, then-No. 10 NC State sent Boston College women’s basketball packing in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, ending a historic run for the Eagles. With a shot at revenge, BC led No. 4 NC State for 35 minutes on Sunday, ending the third quarter up 60-47. With 10 minutes to go, an upset was in reach.
Unfortunately for BC, NC State’s fourth quarter made up for its previous struggles. The Eagles (4-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) had no response for the Wolfpack’s defensive pressure and could not hold on to their lead. With 1:25 on the clock, an NC State free throw gave the Wolfpack (6-0, 1-0) just their second lead of the game. This time, they held onto it for a 75-69 victory—their sixth of the season.
“This is one of those games where you can’t get it back,” BC head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said in her postgame press conference. “I have a lot of sad, frustrated players in the locker room—they know they played their hearts out in this game but [it] didn’t go our way in the end. I hope we can channel the frustration and the anger that we feel … and then come out in our next ACC game against Syracuse and … play with the confidence that we played with today.”
NC State started the first quarter with a layup, and BC answered with an 11-2 run, establishing a lead that would hold for the majority of the game. The Eagles took command early, relying on 3-pointers and an up-tempo offensive attack. BC’s game was not perfect, however, as fouls and NC State free throws quickly emerged as a problem for the Eagles.
NC State shot 34 free throws and made 27. BC shot just eight. With 29 total fouls against BC, nearly every player was in foul trouble by the end of the game.
“I thought that it was a physical game on both ends of the floor. … I’m not sure why we didn’t get to the foul line that many times,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “I thought that we were just as capable of getting those same calls on our end … maybe they should have been in foul trouble along with us, but they weren’t.”
Although the Wolfpack outscored BC by a point in the second quarter, the Eagles kept their lead. At halftime, BC was up 32-27.
BC’s offense exploded in the third quarter. The Eagles were making shots, controlling the tempo, and rebounding like pros. Momentum was working for BC, and it was showing up on film.
The Eagles’ 28-point third quarter, however, also included nine BC fouls. Leading Eagles such as Clara Ford, Makayla Dickens, and Taylor Soule were all approaching five fouls, forcing BC into less aggressive play.
NC State increased its defensive pressure in the fourth quarter with an unrelenting press, tiring out BC and forcing it into messy play.
“Their defensive pressure did kick up a notch, and we had some forced turnovers that we normally wouldn’t have, but it was also because we had foul trouble and had some guards on the bench that we could have had in there,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “We need to work on how to handle that pressure and play when we’re up against a great team.”
With a diminished roster playing carefully, BC could no longer fend off NC State’s offense. A 21-2 run by the Wolfpack erased the Eagles’ lead, and BC could not regain the momentum. NC State dodged an upset by six points.
Though it fell short of a win, BC was not without standout performances.
“That was hands down Makayla Dickens’ best game of the season. … She not only played great offensively but defensively she was everywhere,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “I think this is kind of [Marnell Garraud’s] come-out game as well—she had a little bit of a slow start this year, so I think this is gonna propel her into having a lot more confidence.”
Dickens led the Eagles with 20 points, followed by Garraud and Cameron Swartz with 15 each.
With Soule, a captain, in and out of the game due to foul trouble, BC proved its ability to compete without its leader on the floor. Even so, the Eagles lacked the depth required to overcome excessive fouls and beat the top team in the ACC.
Despite the loss, Dickens expressed her hope that BC will build on its near-success.
“When you play like we just did against NC State, it’s a huge confidence booster,” Dickens said. “I think it’ll carry over into the next game, and hopefully we can take our frustration out on the next team.”
Featured Image by Mary Schwalm / AP Photo