Knocking down 16 of her game-high 20 points in the second half, senior guard Jackie Ward propelled the Binghamton University women’s basketball team to an explosive second half Wednesday afternoon against the University of Maine Black Bears at home. The Bearcats stormed to their fifth victory in the past six games. Now boasting a 7-2 record in America East play, BU is off to its best conference start in 10 years.
The score remained tight in the game’s opening minutes as the Bearcats struggled to get going offensively. After quickly falling behind 5-1, BU did not see its first lead of the day until junior guard Andrea Holmes hit a shot from behind the arc with 14:33 left in the half to put the Bearcats up by one. The lead was short-lived, however, and the Bearcats soon found themselves even with the Black Bears with just over four minutes remaining in the first half.
“I think in the first half we were kind of playing to their speed,” Ward said. “Whenever we do that, whenever we play to the other team’s speed, whether it’s fast or slow, that’s when we get in trouble. I think our key is to stay kind of in our style and our speed of play.”
With the game tied at 21, freshman guard Jasbriell Swain banked a quick layup following a steal from Holmes who added a bucket of her own shortly after to put BU up by four. With 50 seconds remaining in the first half, the Bearcats put up six straight points, which included back-to-back field goals from Ward, to get ahead by eight, their largest lead up to that point, going into halftime.
But the halftime break could not slow the momentum BU had acquired in the first half’s final minutes. Ward hit a 3-pointer five seconds into the second half, and from there it seemed the Bearcats and Ward could not be stopped. Ward, the sole senior on the BU squad, went on to sink two more shots in the next two and a half minutes, and her 10-point run stretching between the two halves quickly put the Bearcats up 41-25 with just under 18 minutes left to play. With the spark from their senior, the Bearcats embarked on an offensive tear, posting a 46.7 field goal percentage from 3-point range, and would not come close to surrendering the lead for the remainder of the game. They went on to finish off Maine by a final score of 70-43.
“In the second half especially, I thought we came out, we defended, we rebounded, we ran the basketball,” said head coach Nicole Scholl. “Those are the things that we do and that’s what built that late lead to what it was.”
Ward, who missed the opening games of the team’s schedule due to injury, would finish the contest with a game-high 20 points and a game-high five assists. Swain also finished the night with a game-high 14 rebounds and eight points, while Holmes contributed 18 points of her own.
Ashleigh Roberts led the visitors with 14 points, and fellow Black Bear Shareka Maner put up 13 rebounds. As a team, the Black Bears missed all 10 of their 3-point field goal attempts.
With the victory, the Bearcats remain unbeaten at home, now a perfect 8-0 on the year, which is a program-best in the history of the Events Center.
“We take a lot of pride in playing at home,” Swain said. “We don’t want anybody to break our streak. We feel like when you come into our home, it’s gonna be hard to play … We have fans who really support us and we just play so well on our home court.”
On Wednesday, UMBC is scheduled to make the trip to the Events Center where it will attempt to put a blemish on the Bearcats’ perfect home record. When the two teams met earlier in the year, the Retrievers came out on top, handing BU its first loss of the season.
“UMBC [is a] very good team,” Holmes said of the upcoming challenge. “[They’re] a well-coached team, very disciplined. We struggled a little bit there at UMBC, but I think the focus is … just coming out and playing BU basketball.”
Tip-off for the game against UMBC is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Events Center.