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Swartz spectacular in re-energizing win for BC

Cameron Swartz went off for 29 points to lead the Boston College Eagles to a blowout victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions, whose threatening scorer, Makenna Marisa, was held to 14 points.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 05 ACC Women’s Tournament - Boston College v Clemson
Cameron Swartz
Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Cameron Swartz upped her scoring average by 3.1.

The senior guard was second on BC in scoring last year with 13.4 points per game, but was averaging just 7.8 entering Thursday night’s contest against the Penn State Nittany Lions. With this year’s top two scorers both held to four points, Swartz stepped up, dropping 29 in an 86-69 Power 5 victory at Conte Forum that re-energized the Eagles (6-1, 0-0 ACC) 15 days after a bad loss to the BU Terriers.

“It kind of gives our team that feeling of toughness and that grittiness that is what BC women’s basketball is about,” Eagles head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said of the win. “In the last couple games, we've been on them for just not having that grit on the boards and things like that.

“I thought the way we snapped and moved the ball today was almost as good as it gets against anybody. We played inside-out, we snapped the ball around the perimeter. I don't know that we took really any contested shots. Everybody was just moving and working. And then when the shot did go up, I think everybody had confidence that we could get it back in a second chance with an offensive board. So if we can keep that momentum going, that’s what we want.”

Jaelyn Batts, making her fourth start of the season, backed up Swartz with a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double and Marnelle Garraud (16 points) hit some big momentum threes as part of a 4-of-7 effort from downtown.

Batts, who finished 7-of-8 from the field, provided a spark in the first quarter with six points and the Eagles led 20-14 entering the second.

After losing the second by one, the Eagles came alive in the third with a three from Garraud kicking things off. Then, after a Penn State three, BC went on a little 5-0 run with a Swartz layup followed by an offensive foul on the Nittany Lions and a Batts jumper in the key at the 8:12 mark.

The Eagles were putting points on the board in a hurry, but Penn State was answering so it wasn’t until a 4-point play by Swartz with 4:05 remaining in the third that BC started to pull away. Swartz knocked down a triple and was knocked down right in front of the BC bench. The three and ensuing free throw conversion put the Eagles up by 13 and they led by at least that much the rest of the way.

“I was very pumped, but I think I was more pumped when I look up and I see my whole team surrounding me off the bench,” Swartz said. “I think that’s what made the play was just how hyped everyone else was for it.”

Garraud would hit two triples in the final 51 seconds of the third to put BC up 18 entering the fourth. The first of those treys came on a nice kick out from Makayla Dickens, who was in traffic under the basket and was one-point shy of 1,000 career points, which she still is because she made that sacrifice to help the team.

Dickens finished with four points and four assists. She was BC’s second leading scorer entering the game (now third behind Swartz). The team’s leading scorer, Taylor Soule, went 0-of-7 from the field on her way to four points but had five assists to match Batts for the team high.

Penn State features Makenna Marisa, who was the fifth-leading scorer in the nation entering the contest with 22.4 points per game. She was kept in check at 14 points.

“We switched out between T Soule and Jaelyn and even Cam guarded (Marisa) some,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “We tried to put size on her as opposed to just putting a smaller guard on her and I think that helped us. But I also think it was also a team effort to stop her. ... She’s a phenomenal player and I think to our credit we did a nice job communicating.”

Ali Brigham led the Nittany Lions with 18 points. Marisa dished out a game-high six assists and swiped three steals.

BC had slight edges in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, but its real advantage came at the free throw line where it accumulated 12 more attempts and 10 more makes than Penn State.

“That’s always a key for us is to play controlled pressure defense without fouling and then on the flip side kind of play through contact and make sure we’re trying to get to the foul line,” Bernabei McNamee said.

The Eagles also won the rebounding battle 43-33.

Throughout the game, Swartz was scoring at all three levels, converting on 3-point plays and really just doing it all. It was her night and Batts and Garraud played their roles on the team to perfection as well. BC showed that it can win when Soule has an off night. In its loss to BU, Soule scored 25 of the team’s 65 points and nobody else was in double figures.

“Jaelyn stepping up was huge,” Swartz said. “I think that tonight really showed that we are all in this and we all have talent that can help us get a win.”

Penn State fell to 4-4 (0-0 Big Ten). This game was part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.