Following Boston College women’s basketball’s win against Georgia Tech, BC head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said that if there were a year where a team could shake things up, it would be this year. Sitting at No. 13 in the ACC, the very bottom of the conference, BC is the underdog of all underdogs, and winning any matchup is considered an upset.
As the Eagles (7-11, 3-11 Atlantic Coast) opened up the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. against Pittsburgh (5-14, 3-13), they sought to do just that. Against Pitt, BC rebounded from its regular-season finale loss to Syracuse and its Feb. 16 loss to Pitt, where the Eagles led for the majority of the game but ultimately came up just short, losing by three.
Wednesday, however, was a different story, as the Eagles came away with a 67-56 win to advance to the second round of ACC Tournament action. While Wednesday’s game was far from perfect for either team, in March winning is the only option.
“This is what, survive and advance?” Bernabei-McNamee said in her postgame press conference. “That’s the time of year we are in, and with that being said, ugly survival is better than not surviving. So I thought it was pretty much an ugly game.”
Junior point guard Cam Swartz was a shining beacon of hope for BC in an otherwise sloppy game, and she led the Eagles with a career-high 33 points. She tied the program record for most points in an ACC Tournament game.
“I was really proud of Cam today, and her last couple of games,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “She’s been so consistent, and moving forward, that’s what we got to see from her. She just played with that fire in her eyes. She really was a two-way player that had to do a lot of things in today’s game.”
Swartz opened the scoring for BC after being fouled while taking a 3-point shot. She made all three free-throw attempts and followed up with two triples, scoring the team’s first nine points. While the Panthers scored the game’s first points, BC followed that first basket up with a 12-0 run. Emy Hayford closed out the quarter’s scoring for Pitt with a layup off a BC turnover, bringing the Panthers within seven after 10 minutes.
Turnovers and fouls dominated much of the second quarter for both teams. BC took advantage of them in the first half of the quarter, scoring 15 points off turnovers and nine from the charity stripe. In the final five minutes of the half, the trend seemingly switched. Pitt’s Jayla Everett took the game into her own hands, scoring nine points and sparking a 13-0 run. Despite BC leading by 15 with just three and a half minutes to play, the Panthers brought the score within two at the half.
With All-ACC first team selection and leading scorer Taylor Soule in foul trouble early, Swartz stepped up, leading the team with 20 points—including 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc—in just the first 20 minutes of action. Everett positioned herself as a mirror image to Swartz, scoring 13 in the first half.
Coming out of the half with just one score separating the two teams, both were determined to extend their season. The Eagles extended their lead early in the quarter and held onto it with points from five different players, including Soule, who contributed her first points of the game.
BC took a 49-38 lead heading into the final quarter. Quickly, the Eagles looked like they were starting to run away with the game. Coming out of the under-five media timeout, BC held a 59-42 lead. Pitt, however, did not roll over easy, and the Panthers tried to fight back into the contest.
Swartz’s 33 points marked nearly half of BC’s total points, and in the process, she broke her previous career high of 27. Swartz went 15-of-16 from the free-throw line and 4-of-8 from three. Perhaps most impressively, Swartz played 36 of 40 minutes with only one turnover when turnovers dominated play for both teams.
BC will have an opportunity to avenge its most recent loss against Syracuse Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Having just played the Orange less than a week ago, the Eagles know what they need to build on.
“For us, a lot of things that we do when we prepare is about the scout, and so I do think that it’s to our advantage because we do know Syracuse,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “I’m hoping in this game that we kind of take more away from them in that regard, and then we also don’t look so small, that on both sides of the floor we play big.”
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics