In 2017-18, Boston College women’s basketball was far from a good rebounding team. The Eagles finished the season tied for 326th in the country in rebounds per game, easily the worst mark in the ACC. It didn’t take long for those numbers to change under new head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee.
In 2018-19, BC has largely been dominant on the glass, averaging the sixth-most offensive rebounds per game in the country. What was once a crippling weakness for the Eagles has turned into one of the team’s greatest strengths, and that turnaround was on full display Thursday against Wake Forest. BC outrebounded the Demon Deacons, 42-30, and snatched 19 offensive boards, including one with 2.7 seconds to play by Makayla Dickens that sealed a nail-biting 65-64 win for the Eagles.
It was excellent offensive rebounding that had initially put BC (11-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) in position for a comfortable road win. With the Eagles clinging to a 40-34 lead midway through the third quarter, Milan Bolden-Morris pivoted in the paint and knocked down a jumper before swishing two free throws to extend the BC lead to 10 points. On the next Eagles trip down the floor, Bolden-Morris missed a 3-pointer, but an offensive rebound from Dickens—who grabbed a game-high five offensive boards—led to a contested layup inside from Taylor Soule, who was also fouled on the play.
Soule was unable to hit the resulting free throw, but two more Eagles rebounds from Bolden-Morris and Georgia Pineau kept the possession alive long enough for Dickens to bank a shot off the glass. The four-point possession gave the Eagles a commanding 14-point lead with four minutes to play in the third quarter, and it looked like BC’s relentlessness on the glass was wearing down the Demon Deacons (9-6, 0-2 ACC).
Wake Forest needed a spark, and they got it in the form of Eliza Penna, the Demon Deacons’ leading scorer. On the next possession, she hit a 3-pointer to re-energize Wake Forest, sparking a 19-6 Demon Deacons run that was capped by a layup from Lindsey Jarosinski. It quickly cut the Eagles’ advantage to 54-53 with 7:40 left in the game, a 13-point swing that set the stage for a tense finish.
Taylor Ortlepp tried to drag BC over the finish line, hitting three consecutive 3-pointers over a two-minute span in the fourth quarter, but she couldn’t entirely put Wake Forest away. The last of her buckets from behind the arc gave the Eagles a 63-58 cushion with four minutes remaining in the game. BC would score just one more basket—Emma Guy stepped into a mid-range jumper to give the Eagles a five-point lead with 3:13 to play—but in the end it was Dickens on the offensive glass that secured the win.
With 20 seconds remaining and 12 seconds on the shot clock, BC held possession and a slim 65-64 lead. The ball was swung around the perimeter to Ortlepp, who launched a desperation shot from long range with the shot clock ticking down. The ball bounced high off the rim, and it looked like the Demon Deacons would have a chance to rebound and get one last shot. Instead, Dickens swooped in, leaping for the offensive board and managing to run the clock all the way down to 2.7 seconds before being fouled. On the ensuing inbound, she managed to dodge a couple of Wake Forest defenders to run out the clock and seal BC’s first ACC win of the season.
It was a wildly entertaining finish, one that mirrored a first half that was arguably just as pleasing to watch. The game was off and running quickly, with Guy stepping into an open 17-foot jumper before Dickens found a little space on the right wing and drained a 3-pointer to lift the Eagles to an early 5-0 lead. That was the biggest advantage either team enjoyed in the first quarter, however, as the game settled into a back-and-forth rhythm. The Demon Deacons pounded the ball inside, earning eight shots from the charity stripe and effectively using the duo of Ivana Raca and Penna to keep pace.
Raca tallied 14 points for Wake Forest, while Penna led all scorers with 26 points on 7-of-16 shooting. The duo accounted for 18 of the Demon Deacons’ 26 first-half points, and they did so from all areas of the floor, muscling their way for layups and getting to the foul line, where they were a combined 7-of-9 in the first half.
Meanwhile, seven different BC players found the scoresheet in the first half, as Bolden-Morris came off the bench to tally nine first-half points, including a 3-pointer from the right corner that gave the Eagles their largest lead of the half at 34-26 with a minute and a half left in the second quarter. A Sydney Lowery layup with 45 seconds to play was the final basket of the first half, as BC retreated to the locker room with a 36-28 lead and never trailed the rest of the way, thanks to its prowess on the glass.
Ultimately, despite struggling to score down the stretch, the Eagles escaped Winston-Salem with a hard-fought ACC road win. The victory moves BC to 1-2 in the ACC and is another sign of the impact that Bernabei-McNamee has had on the program just 16 games into her tenure. After all, last season the Eagles failed to record a single road win in conference play, but now look to be poised to pick up a couple more because of their tenacity on the boards—a clear sign of the attitude that the first-year coach has instilled in her players.
Featured Image by Kobe Hurtado / For The Heights