After suffering a 10-point loss to Hartford on Saturday, the Binghamton women’s basketball team was looking for a bounceback victory in the rematch on Sunday afternoon. In the fourth quarter, sophomore guard Denai Bowman netted a crucial jumper, putting BU up by three with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
“We want to have the ball in [Bowman’s] hands at the end of the game and we know she’s gonna attack and explode up over the defense,” said Binghamton head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord. “What makes her do that is her heart, her intensity.”
After the ensuing media timeout, the Bearcats played strong defense, only allowing one field goal by the Hawks for the remainder of the game, and Bowman iced the game with back-to-back layups, solidifying the team’s 52-44 comeback win and tying her career best of 22 points.
“Play smart, play hard and play together — that’s all I ask them to do,” Shapiro Ord said. “They brought great energy. We had to stay disciplined in our defense and [we] did.”
Last season, Hartford (3-3, 3-3 America East) almost had a completely winless season, earning its only victory in the final game of the year, and the Bearcats (2-6, 2-4 AE) blew out the Hawks both times the teams played. However, Hartford is finding its footing in this year’s campaign, as it earned its third win of the season on Saturday, handing the Bearcats a 64-54 loss in the first meeting.
“I told the team and I told a lot of people, the Hartford team is much improved with their new players,” Shapiro Ord said. “They did a really good job with our bigs inside, and we didn’t get those looks like we needed to.”
Hartford’s senior forward Breyenne Bellerand, senior guard Jada Lucas and junior forward Sierra Smith were a triple threat, as Bellerand scored 16 points while Lucas had 13. Defensively, Smith had an excellent day on the boards with 21 rebounds. On Sunday, Smith recorded 13 rebounds and nine points.
“We didn’t outrebound them, but that’s a very good Hartford team with the rebounding and [Smith] backing up another double-digit performance in rebounding,” Shapiro Ord said. “She did a tremendous job on the boards.”
For the Bearcats, it was senior forward Kaylee Wasco who led the charge on Saturday with 13 points and 11 rebounds, the second double-double of her career.
“Wasco is a very strong player that should get double-doubles every night,” Shapiro Ord said. “She wants to have the best last year and she’s been a leader as well during practice and games.”
While sophomore forward Birna Benonysdottir had 10 points and sophomore guard Clare Traeger had 11 rebounds and nine points on Saturday, sophomore forward Destiny Samuel was the only other player to have a double-double, the first of her career in her eighth game at BU. She scored 10 points and had 10 rebounds in the 64-54 loss.
“I love [Samuel’s] energy,” Shapiro Ord said. “Sometimes [Samuel] gets a little hectic, but when she’s just shooting and floating into it and she’s not thinking about it, things flow pretty well for her.”
Going into Sunday’s game, there was a crucial component that the Bearcats needed to change: their third quarter. The third quarter has been a major struggle for BU this season, as their last four performances in the third have only seen single-digit scoring, including Saturday’s game where the team recorded just six points. Shapiro Ord said that they decided to change the lineup in the third, and BU was able to get out of this rut. They scored 16 points — the most out of every other quarter.
“We threw in a very athletic group and we just tried to shake them up instead of just letting them come,” Shapiro Ord said. “We tried to dictate a little and we got some stops and it was just something to really spark us and it worked. We kept our composure where they did not and we stayed disciplined on our defense and it didn’t bother us and that was really in that third quarter.”
Although Bowman was the star of Sunday’s game with her 22-point effort, Shapiro Ord said that the biggest reason BU won was the team’s harmony.
“Everybody has to play together, and that’s what we did,” Shapiro Ord said. “It was really a team effort, and I thought that was a big part of why we were so successful in the end.”
After splitting the series with Hartford, Binghamton is set to take on Vermont next weekend. Tipoff for the first game is set for 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9 at the Patrick Gym in Burlington, Vermont.