Last week, facing a 20-point deficit in the first half against UMBC, the Binghamton women’s basketball team echoed the Duke Blue Devils, calmly surging back to steal a victory on the road. Last night, the Bearcats were almost on the other end of it, letting a 15-point lead at home disappear against UMass Lowell, but they displayed a similar calmness to their last game, staving off the River Hawks (7-20, 3-11 America East) to claim a 58-53 victory at the Events Center.
“Every league game is going to be a battle,” said BU head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord. “I was proud of the girls because, when it got to a tie game, we didn’t put our heads down. We just kept battling till the end.”
The first quarter started out sloppily for the Bearcats (11-15, 6-7 AE), turning the ball over on each of their first two possessions, but the team settled into a rhythm soon after. Binghamton began passing the ball crisply and efficiently, ofttimes cross court, allowing for open, makeable shots that set the tone for the first two-and-a-half quarters.
The Bearcats’ offense was spurred on by junior guard Kai Moon’s electric 3-point shooting in the opening period; Moon was a perfect 3-for-3 in the quarter. When Moon wasn’t hitting threes, the team was finding open passes down low for a couple of easy layins. The Bearcats were also competitive on the glass, pulling in four offensive boards in the first 10 minutes. All of this fueled Binghamton to a 17-point opening quarter.
“My shot actually went in [tonight],” said Moon, “but my teammates did a good job of recognizing when the zone collapsed, when we got the ball in the middle and just hitting me when I was open and I was able to knock some shots down.”
Defensively, BU forced UMass Lowell into a perimeter offense, denying them opportunities in the post. The Bearcats’ aggressive defense forced the River Hawks to shoot very poorly from the floor, as they managed just 36 percent in the first frame. Nor did UML have many second-chance opportunities, with junior guard Karlee Krchnavi leading BU’s solid defensive-rebounding performance.
Things slowed down considerably in the second frame. Turnovers, particularly offensive fouls, began to pile up for both teams, and the shooting performances from the floor worsened for the two sides. Despite this, Binghamton’s 3-point shooting remained north of 50 percent at the break, and the team’s advantage was eight.
The Bearcats began the third period on fire from the floor, once again led by Moon. The junior guard added two-point jumpers to her game in addition to 3-pointers, contributing to a 55-percent performance in the quarter. The River Hawks continued to look listless on offense, and the Bearcats’ scoring margin stretched as high as 15 points.
Toward the end of the third, however, the game began to shift in the River Hawks favor. The floor opened up for UMass Lowell offensively, particularly for graduate student guard Brianna Rudolph. Rudolph began to find lanes in a suddenly porous BU defense through the end of the third and into the fourth, leading her team’s surge that saw Binghamton’s lead disappear entirely with four minutes left to play. The Bearcats’ offense was stagnant, and the team was on the verge of blowing a double-digit, second-half advantage.
“We knew we had to get some stops,” said junior guard Carly Boland. “We knew we couldn’t let them execute on offense, so I think we just kind of amped up the defense, trying to get in their face, trying to get in passing lanes before they scored.”
It was the efforts of Boland and senior forward Rebecca Carmody, on both sides of the ball, that saved the game for the Bearcats. Boland converted a crucial 3-pointer in the dying minutes that propelled the Bearcats back in front and registered two steals in the final 90 seconds. Carmody, who was honored pregame for scoring her 1,000th point in the team’s last game, made her biggest impact on defense, coming up with a steal with 30 seconds left that helped seal the contest for BU.
With last night’s game marked down in the win column, the Bearcats sit in sixth place in the AE with three games remaining in the regular season. Shapiro Ord appeared to hope that this victory will fuel her team down the stretch.
“Basically, they [the team] know that this is the most important part of the season,” Shapiro Ord said. “It’s not how you start but it’s how you finish.”
The women’s basketball team next takes the court on Saturday, Feb. 23 at UVM. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. from Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vermont.