Women’s basketball finds offensive rhythm too late in loss at Maine

Second-half offensive woes defined the Binghamton women’s basketball team’s two outings preceding Sunday’s clash with Maine.

Xindi Tian/Contributing Photographer Junior forward Sherae Swinson’s team-high 13 points were not enough to overcome Binghamton’s early deficit.

The Bearcats bucked that trend in Orono, but their 50 percent second-half shooting clip couldn’t propel them past the Black Bears, who maintained a double-digit halftime lead for a 65-53 victory.

“It’s a little frustrating right now for everyone,” BU head coach Nicole Scholl said. “I think the kids know how they are capable of playing, and we are just not playing to our abilities right now.”

With the game’s first five minutes as the exception, the Bearcats’ first-half play was abysmal. A layup by Maine junior guard Ashleigh Roberts opened the scoring before BU senior guard Vaneeshia Paulk quickly tied the score at two. Back-to-back jumpers gave Maine (13-11, 7-4 America East) a five-point lead before two consecutive baskets by BU forwards Morgan Murphy and Sherae Swinson pulled the Bearcats (4-20, 1-10 AE) to within one with 15 minutes left in the half.

From that point on, Binghamton’s offense went cold. Maine managed a 12-0 run over five minutes, and BU would not score again until another Murphy jump shot made the score 19-8 with seven minutes remaining in the period. The Bearcats would only score 10 more points in the half, and headed to the locker room trailing, 33-18.

Binghamton took a 17.9 percent shooting clip into the break.

“In the first half, we didn’t execute on offense really well,” Scholl said. “Maine did a good job being physical with us and trying to take us out of our game. We got down early and just had a tough time going back.”

The beginning of the second half looked similar to the first. A 3-pointer from Maine sophomore guard Sophie Weckström and two free throws by sophomore forward Mikaela Gustafsson pushed the lead to 20 points. The Bearcats’ deficit would balloon to 26 points with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

But Binghamton refused to quit. Led by Paulk and senior guard Stephanie Jensen, who hit two 3-pointers, the Bearcats capped off the game on a 22-8 run.

“I think it was a focus on our execution on offense,” Scholl said, referring to her team’s second-half success. “We used our screens better and had a lot more shot confidence in the second half. Our cutting was a little bit more aggressive, and we played disciplined.”

Swinson scored a team-high 13 points for the Bearcats and earned Co-Player of the Game honors. Paulk finished with 10 points and a game-high seven rebounds, while Murphy chipped in with eight points and six rebounds.

Maine found strength in its depth, as 11 Black Bears contributed at least one field goal in the contest. Weckström finished with a game-high 16 points and four 3-pointers, while sophomore forward Liz Wood contributed 13 points and six rebounds.

Binghamton currently sits at the bottom of the AE standings, tied with UMBC and two games behind seventh-place UMass Lowell.

With its three-game road trip in the rearview mirror, Binghamton is scheduled to return home for a clash with second-place New Hampshire. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in the Events Center.