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Swartz, Dickens pour in threes, BC breaks through vs. No. 19 Notre Dame

The Boston College Eagles have their first ranked win of the season after hard-fought battles against UNC and Louisville came up short. They defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Thursday on the strength of phenomenal performances from Cameron Swartz and Makayla Dickens.

NELA5497.JPG BC women’s basketball
Taylor Soule (left), Cameron Swartz (center) and Jaelyn Batts.
Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Boston College Eagles guard Cameron Swartz averaged 7.8 points per game through the first six games of this season — down 5.6 from what she averaged last year.

But something clicked for Swartz on Dec. 2 when she dropped 29 on Penn State and she has averaged 17.6 over her last 12 games, including that one.

Swartz’s season high of 39 points came on Jan. 9 at Clemson and it helped her earn ACC Player of the Week honors. Then, on Thursday night against the No. 19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, she recorded her third-highest scoring total of the season with 28 and made the game-winning jumper in the key with 2:01 remaining to lead BC to a 14-point comeback and its first ranked win of the season.

Swartz’s game-winner put the Eagles up 72-70 and Notre Dame missed a pair of shot attempts in the final four seconds, allowing BC to hang on 73-71 at Conte Forum.

With the win, BC moved from the first team out of ESPN’s bracketology to one of the last four teams with a bye. ESPN believes they should be a 10-seed if the season were to end today.

“This can’t be ‘oh this is the biggest win,’” said BC head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “This is what we build on.”

Swartz was 5-of-8 from downtown and added four assists. She and sharpshooter Makayla Dickens (6-of-10 from distance, 20 points, five assists) accounted for all of the Eagles’ 3-pointers. Dickens was 10th in the nation in 3-point percentage (45) last year and was 22nd in triples made per game (2.84).

BC leading scorer Taylor Soule added 15 points and 10 rebounds — her first double-double of the season.

The Eagles trailed by five after one and by eight at the break. The Irish went on an 8-0 run from 4:37 in the third to 2:53 in the third to put themselves up 14. The run featured six points from Maya Dodson. Swartz ended it with a trey at 2:35 remaining before the fourth. That started a 15-0 run for BC that featured five points apiece from Swartz and Dickens and was capped by a Maria Gakdeng layup that put the Eagles up one 17 seconds into the final frame.

Notre Dame would fight back to lead by six twice in the fourth, including with 4:54 to play. But Swartz made a three to cut it to 67-64 and Dickens later added a trey that tied it at 70.

“I think one thing that our team has always been about is feeding the hot hand,” Swartz said. “And it wasn't just my hot hand tonight, which helped a lot. It was Makayla too. ... She’d hit something then I’d hit something. So I felt like tonight was a really big tag team.”

Freshmen Sonia Citron (13 points, eight rebounds, four assists) and Olivia Miles (12 points, seven assists, two steals) had the best games for the Irish, while Sam Brunelle and Dodson added 15 and 13 points, respectively. Miles leads the nation with 7.8 helpers per game.

Brunelle was 6-of-8 from the field and 2-of-3 from deep to pace a 50.9 percent shooting night from the field for Notre Dame. That easily beat BC’s 41.5 percent performance. But the Eagles’ 11 threes compared to the Irish’s five made the difference.

“We’ve come really close to beating UNC or even a Louisville,” Soule said. “Makayla Dickens is one of the greatest shooters in the nation. I have confidence in myself and everyone else on the team. We just had to come out and play our hearts out and that’s what we did.”