The Boston College Eagles looked good in their 2021-22 opener, defeating the Harvard Crimson 86-60 behind 19 points from Taylor Soule, who reached 1,000 for her career, on Tuesday at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Soule started off her senior season with a bang by being a force in transition. She led a BC offense that found a lot of easy looks and that used a key second-quarter run to swing the momentum of a close game for good.
The Eagles won the second 25-14 to go up 44-29 at halftime.
The frame got off to a good start for the home team with one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation in Makayla Dickens (nine points, eight rebounds) burying her first three of the season on her second attempt to make the score 22-17 BC.
Harvard answered with a three, BC went on a 5-0 run and then Harvard made another three to cut its deficit to four. So Harvard was hanging in there, but the Eagles eventually went on a 9-0 run that began with a no-look pass from freshman Ally VanTimmeren to a cutting Soule for a layup. BC senior point guard Marnelle Garraud (13 points) then registered steal and fast break layup, followed by another uncontested layup on a drive from the top of the key. Senior guard Cameron Swartz (10 points) capped the run with a three that made it 40-25 Eagles and had the BC bench rocking.
Everything continued to click for BC early in the third. Soule scored seven points in the first 3:20 of the frame and helped put the Eagles up by 24 with 5:48 to go before the fourth. Harvard would get no closer than within 14 in the quarter and trailed by 17 entering the fourth.
BC went on an 8-0 run late in the fourth to turn it into even more of a rout and finished with 12 players in the scoring column.
Soule reached 1,001 career points on a transition layup that made the score 19-15 right before the end of the first. Her accomplishment was announced to the fans, who gave her an ovation.
“It’s a great milestone for any athlete,” Soule said. “When it first happened, I didn’t even really know what was going on, I was kind of confused. But I just have to thank my teammates. ... I’m just glad we got the first win.”
Soule scored two baskets early as part of a 6-2 BC run to open the game. The Eagles led by four again on a Garraud three that made it 13-9, but Harvard’s Annie Stritzel answered with a trey of her own to cut the Crimson deficit to 13-12. Harvard then took its first and only lead of the game at 14-13 on a Stritzel layup.
Soule added three assists and two steals in the contest. Garraud was 2-of-5 from deep, Swartz was 2-of-6, Dickens was 1-of-3 and sophomore JoJo Lacey was 1-of-2. Harvard made three more threes than BC but did it on 11 more attempts.
“I was a little disappointed that they felt open (to take) 29 threes,” said BC head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “Because that really wasn’t in our defensive game plan. But, with that being said, as long as we grow from this game and get better and figure out on film what we can do to communicate a little bit better ... I think we’ll be fine.”
Senior guard Lola Mullaney led the Crimson with 16 points while freshman guard Harmoni Turner (13 points, two steals) and senior guard Tess Sussman (11 points, five rebounds, two steals) were also key contributors.
BC was 11th in the nation with a free throw percentage of 78.1 last year and was 14-of-17 (82.4 percent) on Tuesday.
Bernabei-McNamee said at media day that she might start VanTimmeren, a forward who enrolled early and contributed last year, to have a bigger lineup on the floor than last year when the team started three guards, a 3 and a 5. VanTimmeren did start — in place of Dickens, a senior guard — and freshman Maria Gakdeng started at center in place of senior center Clara Ford.
“I thought (Ally and Maria) did wonderful,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “I think when we (had) that big lineup, I don’t think they really had an answer for us inside. We ended up with 48 paint points and I think we even could have pushed it inside to them even a little bit more. So that’s something that we’ll continue to work on. But I liked the synergy that they had together for sure.”
Before the game, BC took a moment to honor Harvard head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith, who has announced that this season, her 40th at the helm for the Crimson, will be her last.
“Loved that we had an opportunity to play Harvard and be able to wish Coach Delaney a great, successful last season in her unbelievable tenure as a seasoned coach,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “Like I told her, I hope that once she retires, she can come maybe mentor me a little bit because she’s one of the good people in our profession and one of the most outstanding coaches in the country. Outside of that, I’m proud of our team and I love the team effort.”