Women’s basketball looks to end season-opening skid

In the next three days, the Binghamton University women’s basketball team will have two chances to end the drought that has left it winless through the season’s first eight games. The Bearcats (0-8) are set to head to University at Buffalo on Saturday before returning to the Events Center for a matchup against Niagara University on Monday night.

Jonathan Heisler/Photo Editor Sophomore forward Sherae Swinson leads BU in scoring with 9.9 points per game and has emerged as a leader on a young Bearcats team.

Binghamton will enter Saturday’s contest looking to recover from its greatest missed opportunity of the season, a 58-56 loss to University of Nevada, Las Vegas at the ASU Classic on Sunday. The Bearcats held a seven-point lead with just under eight minutes remaining before allowing 10 consecutive points from UNLV. The game marked the third time the Bearcats have lost by fewer than five points this season. Despite this, BU owns a scoring margin of -14.0 — second worst in the America East Conference — after enduring a handful of blowouts.

“[There’s been] a big focus on just getting better each game, and I think we’ve been making steps in the right direction,” Binghamton head coach Nicole Scholl said. “Players have been working hard in practice and have that continued motivation and [are] just trying to improve.”

Buffalo (1-8), who is still winless at home after falling to St. Bonaventure University on Wednesday, 64-55, will come into the match riding a six-game losing streak. Selected to finish sixth in the Mid-America Conference East Division preseason poll, the Bulls are averaging just over 57 points per game, compared to Binghamton’s 48.4 points per game, which ranks dead-last in the America East.

The Bulls are led by a pair of freshmen in Rachel Gregory, averaging 11.5 points per game, and Mackenzie Loesing, averaging 8.4 points per contest.

Like Buffalo, Binghamton has come to rely on its underclassmen thus far this season. After a two-game total of 25 points at the ASU Classic over the weekend, freshman forward Morgan Murphy ranks third on the Bearcats in scoring, behind sophomore forward Sherae Swinson and junior guard Jasbriel Swain, with just over seven points per contest.

Swinson currently leads the Bearcats with just under 10 points per contest. After making just one start last season, Swinson is now averaging the third most minutes for the Bearcats, who lost their three leading scorers from last season to graduation. Scholl referred to Swinson as one of the leaders that has emerged on the team this year, along with Swain and senior forward Kara Elofson.

“Sherae Swinson is another one who, now that she’s in that starting role and seeing a lot of time this year, I think has really blossomed and is ready to come into her own as one of our scorers,” Scholl said.

On Monday, the Bearcats are scheduled to return home to face Niagara (3-3) after playing three straight road games. The Purple Eagles enter the weekend with back-to-back wins against Oakland University and Kent State University at home. Led by the scoring of sophomore guard Meghan McGuinness, Niagara is posting an average of 65 points per game.

On Nov. 12, the Purple Eagles were edged out by St. Bonaventure at home, 51-49, for their first loss of the season. Binghamton, who faced the Bonnies on Nov. 10, was held to just 24 percent shooting in a 27-point season-opening trouncing against the Bonnies.

Stretching back into last season, the Bearcats have now lost 13 of their last 14 games. Binghamton is the only America East team without a win so far this season, and with a loss to Buffalo on Saturday, the Bearcats would match their longest losing streak since the 2003-04 season.

Scholl said she believes the team does feel some pressure to secure its first victory, but that it hasn’t been the main focus so far.

“It’s in the back of their minds,” she said. “But again our focus hasn’t been so much on the wins and losses as the improvements that we’re making and just continuing to be smarter basketball players in game scenarios, you know, how to keep a lead and those type of things that you go through with a younger team.”

Tip-off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Buffalo’s Alumni Arena. Monday’s game against Niagara is set for 7 p.m. at the Events Center.