Despite trailing for most of the game and never having led, the Binghamton women’s basketball team found itself within striking distance against UMBC on Sunday, down by one with 10 minutes left to play. However, over the next six minutes, the Retrievers (11-8, 6-10 AE) exploded on a 20-3 run to pull away from BU (4-25, 2-14 AE), 73-50, to end the Bearcats’ regular season on a 13-game losing skid.
The game began quickly, with possession shifting between the two teams frequently in the opening minutes. After four minutes, BU and UMBC were knotted at five. UMBC then responded with nine unanswered points, building a 14-5 advantage. The Retrievers shut down the Binghamton offense, pressuring their visitor’s backcourt with double-teams on freshmen guards Jasmine Sina and Imani Watkins. The Retrievers forced nine first-half turnovers and held the Bearcats to 25 percent shooting from the floor.
“[UMBC] played really tough physical defense today and obviously our usual scorers weren’t having many good looks,” BU head coach Linda Cimino said.
The Bearcats attacked the aggressive Retrievers’ defense by driving into the paint and drawing fouls. BU scored nine of its 24 first-half points from the charity stripe.
“I wanted to get to the free-throw line 20 times today,” Cimino said. “We got there 10 in the first half. That was part of our strategy — to try to get to the free-throw line and score when the clocks were stopped.”
This strategy, however, failed to keep pace with the UMBC offensive attack. The Retrievers took a 12-point lead with 9:06 remaining in the first half after a 3-pointer from freshman guard Laura Castaldo. Sophomore guard Taylor McCarley and sophomore forward Pandora Wilson, who ended the game with 14 and 11 points, respectively, were also integral to UMBC’s first-half performance. Heading into halftime, UMBC led by a relatively small margin of 33-24, considering its dominant first period.
Coming out of the break, the Bearcats cut their deficit to six with a trey from senior guard Gintare Surdokaite, who finished with a career-high 15 points.
“We definitely relied on other people to score,’’ Cimino said. “[Surdokaite] stepped up and had a career high in scoring and knocked down some 3s for us.”
The Retrievers responded by going on another run to extend their lead into double digits once again, 40-29. But Binghamton did not go quietly, making a comeback attempt halfway through the second half. Integral to this effort was Watkins. Despite being heavily guarded for much of the game, Watkins scored 14 points to keep the Bearcats in contention.
Binghamton went on a 12-2 run to bring the score to 42-41 with 11:48 remaining, due in large part to four offensive rebounds during the stretch. The Bearcats, who have been consistently out-rebounded by their opponents this season, pulled down 41 total boards — including 14 offensive — while converting those second chances into eight points.
“Our kids were physical on the boards,” Cimino said. “They’ve been getting better and improving every game with rebounding. They definitely competed and they challenged UMBC on the boards today.”
After trading baskets with the Retrievers, the Bearcats once again cut the host’s lead to one point. UMBC then responded on its 20-3 run, while receiving scoring from six different players during that stretch. The Retrievers improved their shooting percentage to a 55.2 percent clip in the second half, which carried them to victory.
Binghamton is set to return to action this Saturday against top-seeded Maine in the first round of the conference playoffs. Tip-off is scheduled for noon at the Events Center.