Freshman guard Claudia Soriano has been a key player for Northeastern women’s basketball (2-1, 0-0 CAA) in both of their wins this season and both have came in blowout fashion.
On Wednesday night at Cabot Center in Boston, she provided the spark that led to the blowout: an 8-2 individual run against the UNH Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 America East) that was part of a larger 24-7 team run that lasted most of the second quarter and gave the Huskies a 16-point lead. Northeastern went on to lead by as much as 30 in the fourth and eventually won 78-52.
“I think that it was really exciting for our ladies to be home again,” said first-year Huskies head coach Bridgette Mitchell. “It’s just really that atmosphere. And the result just happened to be the result because we played so hard for the 40 minutes. Because UNH is a really talented team. And so for us to do what we did and sustain that was really exciting for our young ladies.”
Soriano showed why she is a member of the Spanish national team program with a game-high 18 points (4-of-7 from three and 3-of-3 on twos) to go along with six assists and four steals. Not a bad way to endear yourself to the Northeastern crowd in your first home opener, but it wasn’t exactly her coming-out party. She already had 12 points, six helpers and three steals at Holy Cross a week earlier in a 71-45 Huskies win. She was less productive scoring-wise in her team’s overtime loss to Yale last Friday, but the assists and steals have been there in all three of her outings thus far — she had four and five, respectively, against the Bulldogs.
“It’s always really good to play and perform well because I've been working a lot and I’m always trying to do my best,” Soriano said of the first three games of her college career. “It feels good to see that the hard work pays off.”
With her team down 15-14, Soriano made her first basket of the game, a connection from downtown. She followed that with a fast break layup that made it 19-15 Northeastern and capped the 8-2 run with another triple that made it 22-17 in favor of the Huskies.
Northeastern was just 1-of-6 from distance in the first quarter but Soriano helped the entire team get hot in the second, during which they went 4-of-7. Katie May and Gemima Motema made the other two treys to give the Huskies leads of 33-22 and 36-22, respectively.
When asked what it felt like to see her team build off her energy, Soriano offered:
“It was me in that moment, but tomorrow it’s gonna be (leading returning scorer from 2020-21) Kendall (Currence) and the next day it’s gonna be another one. So, I was on at that moment and I mean if (the rest of the team) didn't do their job, we wouldn't have won. So it was a matter of everyone.”
For the game, Northeastern was 8-of-21 from deep and a blistering 64.4 percent from the field. The field goal percentage battle tells the story of the game: UNH shot 28.1 percent.
The Wildcats remained within striking distance for most of the third. They were down just 12 with 3:02 to go in the frame before the Huskies ended it on a 9-0 run that featured a free throw-line jumper and a three from Soriano. The run turned into a 14-0 stretch overlapping the third and fourth, acted as the Huskies’ second wind and gave them a 26-point lead.
“We never let up,” Currence said. “I think that’s one thing about our team this year is that we just fight through everything no matter what and that’s what we’re gonna do all season. Especially our freshmen. ... (Claudia)’s done amazing, I applaud her, how she’s adjusted and just being a leader for her other freshmen is great. Her energy, her communication — it’s like she’s been in college already.”
Currence joined Soriano in double figures with 15 points and also led the team with six rebounds. Donna Ntambue (six points, five rebounds) was the Huskies’ leading scorer entering the contest, but now it is Currence at 12.7 points per game, followed by Soriano at 12.
May, a senior, finished with seven points, a game-high seven assists and three blocks while Motema, a freshman who has been the team’s top bench scorer at 9.7 points per game, had eight points and four boards.
UNH’s leading scorer, Amanda Torres, did her damage with 15 points, including a fast break layup off her own steal that cut her team’s deficit to one with 14 seconds remaining in the first. That came after Currence buried the first three of the game for either side to make it 12-9 Northeastern.
Bella Stuart (five rebounds) and Ivy Gogolin (three rebounds) each added seven points in defeat. Gogolin scored seven of the first nine Wildcat points.
Northeastern won despite turning the ball over 26 times. It won rebounding 41-27, defensive rebounds 29-11, points in the paint 36-22 and second chance points 17-7.