For a program picked to finish last in the America East, the Binghamton women’s basketball team looked impressive against Big East-member Xavier on Saturday night. Even with a roster of just eight active players, the Bearcats (1-3) put up a fight against top-notch competition. Ultimately, however, BU came up short and fell, 89-71.
BU’s freshmen backcourt continued its solid start to the season. Shooting guard Imani Watkins poured in 19 points, earning her second straight AE Rookie of the Week award in the process. Point guard Jasmine Sina added 17, including four 3-pointers.
The Bearcats opened the first half with intensity on both ends of the floor. They captured a 21-15 lead with 10:49 left in the period. Sina played a large role in the Bearcats’ initial offensive success, knocking down three treys in the first 10 minutes of play.
On the defensive end, BU applied pressure on its opponent early, earning key stops along the way.
“We played so hard coming out and our intensity was awesome,” Sina said. “We were all feeding off of each other and getting each other going. I think we need[ed] to keep that up for the rest of the game. I think we lacked a little bit of that at the end of the first half.”
Binghamton’s early lead was the largest it would hold at any point in the game, as Xavier (3-1) increased its full-court press to force seven turnovers in the last five minutes. The Musketeers went on a 17-3 run to close out the first half ahead, 45-33.
“We kind of got ourselves in a hole with too many turnovers in the first half,” BU head coach Linda Cimino said.
But Binghamton wouldn’t give up its fight. Through the second half, the Bearcats limited their turnovers to eight while continuing their battle on offense.
Five minutes into the second half, Xavier led Binghamton, 63-41. In response, the Bearcats embarked on a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to 12.
However, the Musketeers could not be silenced so easily. Led by a pair of 18-point performances from sophomore guard Raeshaun Gaffney and junior forward Briana Glover, XU shot 62.5 percent from the field in the second half. With six Musketeers scoring in double figures, Xavier’s offensive output was too much for BU to overcome.
“We only lost the second half by six, so if you really look at the big picture here, we played an unbelievable second half,” Cimino said.
“Fatigue does set in and that’s when you make errors and you make mental mistakes,” the head coach continued. “You’re physically tired, so you make mental mistakes. But we’re going to have to get used to that real fast. We can’t use that as an excuse.”
Key to the Bearcats’ play in the second half were Watkins and senior forward Sherae Swinson. Watkins attacked the paint on dribble drives, getting to the basket and drawing fouls. Swinson, BU’s only returning starter from 2013-13, was a force as a rebounder on Saturday. She grabbed 10 boards and drained 21 points in a double-double performance.
“My team had a lot of confidence in me, so that just made me want to play harder for them since they were giving me the ball so many times,” Swinson said.
Although Saturday’s game may not have contributed to the Bearcats’ win column, Cimino believes that the game was an important stepping stone for her young squad.
“These kids never backed down,” Cimino said. “I learned a lot about my team today. I learned about their fight and how they don’t give up. I asked them to play hard and they played hard. These are things that we can carry on moving forward.”
Next up for the Bearcats is a contest against Niagara on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Events Center.