Winter break brought more of the same for the Binghamton University women’s basketball team.
After closing out their non-conference slate with a pair of losses at Lehigh University’s Christmas City Classic, the Bearcats (3-17, 2-5 America East) opened up America East play by edging out University of Hartford at home by two. But Binghamton would see just one more win through its six remaining games of intercession play — another two-point victory, coming against the University of Maine on the road. With five more losses, the last coming at the hands of University of New Hampshire at the Events Center on Saturday, the Bearcats come away from the break in eighth place in the America East, one game away from the halfway mark on their regular season conference schedule.
“Conference has been up and down for us,” head coach Nicole Scholl said. “I think from a team perspective, we’re still getting there. It seems funny to say that at this point and time in the season since we’re almost through the first round of conference play but … we’re just such a different team this year [with] a lot of new faces.”
Following a nearly two-week break for the holidays, Binghamton suffered a 30-point defeat by host Lehigh in the first round of the Christmas City Classic on Dec. 29. The next day, in their non-conference season finale, the Bearcats managed just 21 percent from the field as Fairleigh Dickinson University closed out BU, 54-41.
Sophomore forward Sherae Swinson proved to be the lone bright spot for Binghamton, earning an All-Tournament nod after averaging 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks per game for the weekend.
Three days later, the Bearcats returned home to kick off conference play against Hartford. Led by a season-high 16 rebounds from junior forward Jasbriell Swain, Binghamton battled back from a second half deficit of 11 points to push past the Hawks, 46-44, ending a four-game skid and taking the conference opener for the third consecutive season. Swinson led the Bearcats with 11 points.
Swain notched six of her eight points and eight of her boards in the final 20 minutes of regulation, propelling a 15-4 run that brought Binghamton even with the Hawks with just over six minutes remaining. Hartford would regain the lead with back-to-back threes, but another 7-2 run from Binghamton put the score in the Bearcats’ favor, where it stayed until the final buzzer.
On Jan. 5, University at Albany visited the Events Center and quickly put an end to the Bearcats’ winning ways, cruising past Binghamton 72-47. Albany proved too much for the Bearcats down low, outscoring Binghamton 42-16 in the paint and outrebounding the home squad 47-25. Swinson once again led BU, tallying 12 points and adding three blocks.
The Great Danes currently sit atop the America East, still undefeated in conference play.
After another double-digit loss to Stony Brook University, 56-34, on Jan. 9, Binghamton suffered back-to-back five-point losses, falling to Boston University, 57-52, on the road on Jan. 12 and the University of Vermont at home, 61-56.
Following a career-best 14-point performance from freshman guard Kim Albrecht at Stony Brook, Swinson resumed her role as offensive leader against Boston and UVM, scoring a combined 43 points. Her 25 points against Vermont marked a career high.
“As a staff, we’ve known the ability that [Swinson] has, it’s just a matter of her being comfortable with that role,” Scholl said. “I think that goes with all of our players.”
On Jan. 20, BU recovered from a nine-point second half deficit to slip past Maine, 67-65. Junior guard Stephanie Jensen ignited the Bearcats’ second-half comeback, recording 12 of her career-best 15 points after halftime and going 5 for 10 from behind the arc.
But on Saturday, Binghamton let another opportunity at stringing together consecutive wins for the first time this season slip away. After leading briefly in the opening minutes, the Bearcats ultimately succumbed to visiting New Hampshire, 60-52.
Junior guard Vaneeshia Paulk led Binghamton this time, matching her career high with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. Swain added 11 points and a career-high seven steals.
Scholl praised her team’s depth and ability to have a different leading scorer game to game.
“We have that ability, it’s just a matter of our players believing in that, and there’s times that … I see where they’re confident in how they’re playing and other times where that confidence isn’t quite there yet,” Scholl said. “That’s kind of a sign of a growing team and the maturation of a team … [so] if we can keep maintaining that and keep going in the right direction with that I think good things will come for us in the second half of conference play and going into the tournament.”
Binghamton is set to head to University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Wednesday to close out the first half of the conference schedule. Play is set for 7 p.m. at the Retrievers Activities Center Arena.