CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Diamond Johnson (22 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals) and Kayla Jones (17 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals) battled all night to keep No. 5 NC State close or slightly ahead, and the Wolfpack pulled away in overtime to survive a scare against the Boston College Eagles, 85-78, Thursday at Conte Forum.
BC, which is 15-9 overall and 6-7 in the ACC and had already proven it can hang with the nation’s best while at home, reached its biggest lead of 14 at the 6:21 mark of the second quarter. The fourth was back-and-forth with nine lead changes and three ties. BC’s Ally VanTimmeren made a layup off a pass from Marnelle Garraud to tie the game with one second left and force overtime.
In OT, the Wolfpack (22-3, 13-1 ACC) went on a 13-1 run from 3:23 to 0:30 that took the score from 74-72 BC to 85-75 NC State. The run featured six points from Johnson and five points from Kai Crutchfield.
“Very happy to get out of here with a dub,” said NC State head coach Wes Moore. “I think this is the fourth year in a row we’ve come up here and it just seems like it’s always a battle. Give them credit, they shot the lights out, especially the first half.
“Just proud of the way we hung in there. And we did a better job of sharing the ball in the second half I thought and kept them off the boards for the most part.”
Cameron Swartz, who is oh so close to being BC’s leading scorer (0.1 points per game behind Taylor Soule), scored 10 points in the first quarter and made her first four threes. A player with 39-, 29- and 28-point performances to her credit this season, she would finish with 24 points and six boards.
Soule averaged 19 points over the first six games of the season, while Swartz averaged 7.8. Over the 18 games since then, Swartz has averaged 17.4 to Soule’s 13.8. Soule added 16 points, 10 boards, three assists and two steals on Thursday.
NC State kept its rotation tight with eight players seeing action and just six playing more than 13 minutes. Elissa Cunane (12 points, six rebounds, two blocks), Raina Perez (13 points, three helpers) and Kai Crutchfield (12 points, two steals) joined Johnson and Jones in double figures.
Perez made a floater that put the Pack up 67-66 with 58 seconds remaining in regulation and Crutchfield followed with a layup that made it 69-66 at the 21-second mark.
Swartz answered with a layup of her own at 13 seconds remaining and Cunane went 1-of-2 at the line with 11 ticks left before VanTimmeren’s overtime-forcing score.
BC backup point guard Kaylah Ivey, who averages just 13 minutes and two points per game, made two key threes in the third, was in for most of the fourth and finished with eight points and two steals in 21 minutes.
An Ivey steal led to a Soule layup attempt in transition with 3:48 to go in the fourth. Soule was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws to give BC a 64-61 lead, but that would end up being the Eagle’s last lead larger than two, overtime included.
BC had also led by three after a Makayla Dickens mid-range make one minute and 35 seconds into the fourth. But NC State scored five points on one trip down the floor to go up two with 7:10 to go in the frame. Johnson picked up a loose ball, scored inside and was fouled. She missed the free throw, the Wolfpack got the rebound and eventually Jakia Brown-Turner missed a wide-open three. NC State got the rebound again and Cunane made the Eagles pay with a 3-point play.
Ivey’s triple with six seconds remaining in the third gave BC a 51-50 lead entering the fourth. A Soule 3-point play with 1:16 to go in the frame had tied the game at 48 and had raised the volume of Conte’s incredible crowd to probably its loudest level of the night. Soule also converted on a layup off an offensive rebound with 1:40 left in the third to cut into the Wolfpack’s largest lead of regulation (five).
NC State tied the game for the first time since 0-0 on a Crutchfield trey one minute and 39 seconds into the third and a Perez floater one minute and 30 seconds later gave it a 39-37 lead. Perez scored again on a deep two to make it 41-37, but BC’s crowd was not about to get deflated, starting a “Let’s go Eagles” chant that was almost immediately followed by a VanTimmeren three from the right corner.
BC would have gone up 43-41 on a Dickens three with 4:23 left before the fourth, but a travel was called on Dickens right before she got the shot off. The Eagles again took the adversity in stride and Ivey knocked down her first three 23 seconds later, giving BC the 43-41 lead they had been robbed of. However, a 7-0 NC State run then gave the Wolfpack their five-point lead.
The Wolfpack fought back from down 14 with a quick 6-0 run and then, after a three from Swartz, closed the first half on an 8-0 run to cut it to three at the break.
BC’s lack of hesitation on threes and deep twos in the first was epitomized by a Swartz three that made it 11-2 after just one quick pass from Dickens to begin a possession. After a deep two from Dickens made it 13-2, the Conte crowd started an “Overrated” chant.
The Eagles were 3-of-6 from deep in the first and also had three 2-pointers that were nearly threes in the frame. They finished 10-of-21 from beyond the arc, while NC State was 5-of-26.
The Wolfpack shot 28.6 percent from the field in the first, but Johnson made two threes to prevent an even greater deficit.
“Who knows?” Moore said of what caused the slow start. “Does it get in your head? You know, we came up here last year and we were down 16 with six minutes left in the game. We got some stuff off the press last year. ... I can't explain it. Makes it tough when you just can't knock down shots. And give them a lot of credit. They play hard, they get after you. You know it's gonna be physical. That's why I told them last week, ‘this is going to be our let’s get physical week.’ Cuz Georgia Tech and Boston College play us as tough and as physical as anybody in our league and definitely some of the best in the country. We knew it’d be a struggle in that respect. But they just came out hit us in the mouth to start the game. And luckily we got some veterans who kept their composure.”
BC ended up winning the field goal percentage battle 47 percent to 43.2 percent, but NC State’s 46-33 advantage on the glass was key. The Wolfpack also attempted and made 10 more free throws.