Heading into yesterday’s game, the Boston College women’s basketball team had something to prove. The Eagles, who were poised to potentially make the NCAA Tournament in 2020 before the season was cut short, are fighting expectations this year after COVID pauses led to a disappointing 2020-21 season.
The Eagles came into the Notre Dame game at 3-3 in ACC play, having just lost a heartbreaker to #2/3 Louisville. The Eagles matched the Cardinals’ skill for much of that game, but a rough second quarter got them into a deficit that they couldn’t overcome, and Louisville ended up taking home a 10 point victory.
Despite the loss, competing so well against one of the top teams in the country improved BC’s stock, bumping them from the 4th bubble team up to the first team out ahead of Thursday’s game against #17/19 Notre Dame.
As we’ve seen all season (and really every season under Coach McNamee), this Eagles team never stops fighting. Despite jumping out to an early lead against the Fighting Irish, the Eagles ended up down by 14 points late in the third period. Instead of giving up, BC ended the quarter on a 13-0 run of their own, started off by a Cameron Swartz 3 pointer.
The score flipped back and forth over the final 10 minutes of play, but even when the Eagles made mistakes and gave Notre Dame chances to win or tie the game with seconds to go, their defense kept the Fighting Irish from making baskets, ultimately defeating the top 25 ranked Irish by a score of 73-71.
The win proved yet again that the Eagles can compete with the top teams in the country. Seniors Makayla Dickens (20) and Swartz (28) each made 20+ points, Taylor Soule (15 points, 10 rebounds) recorded a double-double, and freshman standout Maria Gakdeng had 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. The Eagles led in rebounds (35-31), and made 15 turnovers while forcing 18.
Beating Notre Dame also pushed BC from a bubble team to a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender. ESPN now has the Eagles listed (along with Utah, Arkansas, and Creighton) as one of the final four teams to receive a bye if the tournament field were decided today. The Eagles have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2006, when they reached the Sweet 16.
BC has some tough games coming up on the schedule, including an away game at Virginia Tech and a home game against ACC leader NC State (February 10 at 8 PM at Conte - show up!), but if the Eagles can win the easier remaining games, and maybe even pick up a surprise upset or two, they should easily prove that they deserve to return to the NCAA Tournament. They’ve certainly already proven that they were underestimated heading into this season.