Fantasy Basketball

NCAAW: Maria Gakdeng, BC Eagles dominate Syracuse Orange

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — When you lose a nail-biter that would have been your first ranked win since 2010 and would have solidified the promise of a young season, a quality win can’t come soon enough.

For the Boston College Eagles, such a victory came on Thursday night at Conte Forum, 95-71 over the Syracuse Orange. We’ll call it a quality win because of the margin and the fact that Syracuse, while struggling in its last two games, has a win over Ohio State (receiving votes) and entered the game ranked No. 67 in the NET rankings. The Orange fell to 8-6 (1-3 ACC) with the loss.

Meanwhile, BC improved to 10-4 (1-2 ACC) thanks to a hot-shooting second quarter from Makayla Dickens that opened up a big lead, a phenomenal performance from two-time reigning ACC Freshman of the Week Maria Gakdeng and a game-high five triples from Marnelle Garraud.

Gakdeng, who would be eighth in the nation in field goal percentage if she had slightly more makes per game to make her eligible, led BC’s inside attack with a 9-of-12 effort from the field for a game-high 21 points. Her signature play of the night came when even a toss up through major contact went down and led to a 3-point play that gave the Eagles their biggest lead to that point (7:25 remaining in the third) at 62-35. Gakdeng also tied a game high with nine rebounds.

As a team, BC entered the contest sixth in the nation in 2-point field goal percentage at 55.1 percent and in the game it shot 57.6 percent from the field.

“I love the way our inside players are really stepping up,” said Eagles head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “And man, what a game Maria had. Like as a freshman, just being able to get in there, hands ready. Some of, not only the catches she made, but the rebounds she snagged, I thought were really impressive for such a young player.”

“I think that over the school break, I’ve gotten a lot more time to focus on my game,” Gakdeng said. “So I’ve been taking the past few weeks as a way to improve. And that’s just showing on the court.”

BC came in knowing its strength was inside scoring. But what was really impressive was that the Eagles outshot a Syracuse team that was fourth in the ACC in 3-point percentage from beyond the arc, going 11-of-22 compared to the Orange’s 7-of-25 effort. Garraud finished 5-of-9 from deep with 17 points to go along with three assists and two steals. Dickens (15 points, seven assists) and Cameron Swartz (11 points, five rebounds, four assists) both went 3-of-6 to account for the other six treys.

Dickens, who shot 45 percent from downtown with 54 makes in 19 games last year, went 3-of-4 in the second quarter. The middle make came during an 8-0 that opened up a 17-point lead. That stretch also saw Dickens make a layup after a great cut and a nice pass from Taylor Soule.

BC was up 16 at halftime and then opened up the 27-point lead early in the third. Syracuse cut it to 18 at the 2:40 mark of that frame, but the Eagles responded and went back up by 27 with 14 ticks to go before the fourth. They led by at least 21 throughout the final quarter.

12 players made it into the game for BC, with nine finding the scoring column. Soule (five boards, five assists, two steals) and Dontavia Waggoner (nine boards) each contributed nine points.

Alaina Rice (six rebounds, three steals) and Teisha Hyman (four steals) each notched 17 points in defeat, while teammate Naje Murray added 11 points, seven boards, six helpers and two swipes.

The Eagles held the Orange to 33 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded them 51-35. BC also won points in the paint 50-32 and bench points 37-17. Syracuse did win the turnover margin by 10.

BC blew a 15-point lead and lost by three to the now-No. 19 UNC Tar Heels on Dec. 19. Since then, the Eagles had had blowout wins over Sacred Heart and UNH, but had also lost to the No. 3 Louisville Cardinals in blowout fashion. The key from Thursday was that the wait to get a quality conference win didn’t take long.

“It was great to get an ACC win,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “I think we needed that as a team, as a program, especially after that UNC heartbreaking loss and then going to Louisville and not playing our best game. We needed a little momentum swing and that’s exactly what I think tonight was all about.”

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