The balloon of excitement created by Saturday’s Senior Day at the Events Center quickly deflated after the Binghamton University women’s basketball team dropped its regular season finale to University of New Hampshire in overtime, 59-52.
With the loss, the Bearcats (12-17, 6-10 America East) now find themselves mired in a four-game losing streak heading into this weekend’s America East tournament.
Binghamton senior guard Andrea Holmes led all scorers on Saturday with 18 points while also recording three assists and five rebounds. Sophomore forward Jasbriell Swain just missed a double-double with 14 points and nine boards.
It was the play of Swain, who scored four of the Bearcats’ five points in the opening minutes, that kept BU afloat in an offensively challenged first half for both teams.
“I feel like I play hard all the time,” Swain said. “My teammates are behind me and they are so supportive and you just really get into it when the crowd gets into it. When you hear them cheer, you just want to give them what they came for.”
In the opening minutes, the Wildcats (16-12, 9-7 AE) jumped out to a 6-5 lead. BU responded with a 5-2 run that was capped by a Holmes 3-pointer, but New Hampshire then went on a 10-6 scoring surge to capture an 18-14 advantage. UNH senior guard Abigail LaRosa scored six of her 12 total points during the run. New Hampshire closed the half with a 25-21 lead.
The Bearcats shot just 16 percent from the field in the first half compared to New Hampshire’s 38.5 first-half field goal percentage. To compensate for the futility on offense, BU showed a propensity to get to the charity stripe and earned 20 free-throw attempts in the first half, but connected on just 12 of its 20 first half foul shots.
BU head coach Nicole Scholl said the team’s sluggish performance was due in part to the festive nature of the game.
“I think with this excitement of being our last game and Senior Day, I think adrenaline was kind of going,” Scholl said. “It was basically just trying to get the players to calm down a little bit, and on the defensive side of things, just pick up our intensity and our effort.”
In the second half, Swain began the scoring for the Bearcats as they trimmed the lead to two, 25-23. After the Wildcats extended their lead back to five, BU proceeded to go on a 13-1 run sparked by five points from Holmes.
The Bearcats found themselves with a nine-point lead, 40-31, their biggest of the game, but were unable to sustain their momentum. As was the case in the first half, LaRosa ignited the Wildcats’ comeback by hitting a 3-pointer to cut BU’s lead to six.
The Bearcats reached the foul limit at the 8:46 mark, and New Hampshire made up the deficit at the free-throw line and would pull ahead, 42-40. After two lead changes, the game was tied at 44 and New Hampshire’s last-second shot kissed the rim to send the game to overtime.
In the extra period, New Hampshire quickly found its rhythm by scoring the first six points to go up, 50-44. BU never recovered and the Wildcats shot free-throws the rest of the way to cement the victory.
“I feel like we played hard,” Swain said. “We have a lot of learning to do. We were short [junior forward] Kara [Elofson] and we have been short her for a while, so we had to switch some things up. But I think overall we played hard and we played as hard as we could. A lot of shots that normally fall just [weren’t] falling and I feel like that will change come next Saturday.”
Junior forward Morgan Frame and senior forward Denise Beliveau led the Wildcats in scoring with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
As the No. 6 seed, the Bearcats are set to play No. 3 University of Hartford in the first round of the America East Tournament in Hartford, the event’s host city. The Hawks defeated the Bearcats twice during the regular season, the first time by more than 20 points.
“I think we have a week to prepare and I don’t think we’ll over-prepare,” Holmes said. “We just want to go in and compete and hopefully give more effort than they do. The team that gives more effort on defense and rebounding will win the game, so we are going to make that a focus in practice for the next couple of days.”
The opening tip is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Friday at Chase Family Arena.