It is not often that Boston College women’s basketball welcomes a Big Ten opponent to its court, but the Eagles took full advantage of the infrequent opportunity on Thursday night.
In wire-to-wire fashion, the Eagles (6–1) earned a win in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, taking down Penn State (4–4) by a final score of 86–69. With the victory, BC evened the all-time series between the two schools.
“I’m excited for the win,” head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said after the game. “I’m most excited to see us step up to the challenge of playing a good team and playing our brand of basketball for 40 minutes.”
Fueled by its strong defense, BC held the Nittany Lions scoreless in the first three minutes of play. The Eagles struggled early on to translate their defensive success into results on the offensive end, though, and neither squad put together a consistent offensive attack in the first half, helping Penn State keep the deficit manageable.
Late in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions cut the Eagles’ lead all the way down to two, setting the stage for what seemed would be a tight second half. But, a ferocious third quarter effort from BC allowed the Eagles to gain momentum and eventually cruise to victory.
“We knew they were tired,” senior guard Cameron Swartz said after the game. “So instead of letting down and being tied with them, we just decided to attack them.”
Entering the third quarter leading by five, BC closed the frame with an 18-point advantage. Prior to the second half, the Eagles had struggled shooting from beyond the arc, only connecting on 17 percent of 3-point shots. BC’s shooters caught fire in the third quarter, though, knocking down five 3-pointers for 63 percent shooting. Their improved shooting, along with their tenacious rebounding efforts, ensured the Eagles’ decisive 17-point win.
Swartz led the way for BC, scoring a season-high 29 points on 11-of-24 shooting. And she was not alone, as Marnelle Garraud and Jaelyn Batts each added 16 points of their own. Along with an efficient 7-of-8 shooting night, Batts pulled in 12 rebounds, a crucial effort that gave her her first career double-double.
Freshman Ally VanTimmeren also served as a spark plug, providing eight points and five rebounds off the bench. Noticeably limited, though, was the Eagles’ star forward Taylor Soule. Coming into the game leading the ACC in field goal percentage, Soule failed to make a single shot from the field and was held to only four points—all of which came at the free-throw line. Soule still managed to leave an impact on the game, despite her quiet stat sheet.
“I think she didn’t really find her offensive rhythm,” Bernabei-McNamee said. “She just found other ways to make things happen. And tonight just wasn’t her night offensively, but that’s okay.”
Soule’s intensity on defense and on the glass was palpable, and she often hit the floor in pursuit of loose balls. She played a critical role in guarding one of the Big Ten’s best scorers: Makenna Marisa. Entering the contest averaging 22.4 points per game, Marisa was in check all night, and the Eagles held her to only 14 points—a key part of BC’s victory.
Soule’s shooting woes highlighted a growing strength of this squad: its depth. Several players helped fill the scoring gap left by Soule, but Batts said individual numbers are an afterthought for the Eagles.
“As long as we win, I do not care what the numbers look like,” Batts said. “I just want to win.”
Featured Image by Aditya Rao / Heights Staff