For the Binghamton women’s basketball team, Wednesday night’s 69-62 victory over UMBC solidified its status as one of the top teams in the America East (AE). For freshman Carly Boland, it was the breakout game of her early collegiate career.
The 6-foot guard, who had averaged less than three points per game this season, scored a season-high 16, leading the Bearcats (5-8, 1-0 AE) to a conference-opening win over the Retrievers (5-8, 0-1 AE). A move to forward made all the difference for Boland, who has appeared as a perimeter player in all but one of BU’s games.
“Carly Boland is a terrific player,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “We moved her to the four and we ran a four-guard lineup because we knew that she could knock down the three and she could also attack from the high post.”
Halfway through the first quarter, Boland entered the game, scoring five straight points — including her first of four three-pointers — to put Binghamton up, 13-7.
Even with an injury keeping UMBC senior guard Pandora Wilson, who was second on the team in points scored last season, off the court, the Retrievers bounced back in the second quarter, taking a 32-31 advantage into the locker room.
At the break, Cimino could be seen gesturing emphatically to her players, keeping them huddled for longer than usual.
“When we draw something up in a timeout, we want them to come out and execute it and that didn’t happen today,” Cimino said. “They needed to understand that in a one-possession game, it’s very important to come out and execute. We just tried to motivate them at halftime and have them understand how important each possession is.”
Cimino’s words worked.
Binghamton outscored UMBC, 16-7, in the third quarter, thanks largely to a 10-point run. Redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Sina, who failed to take a shot in the first half, got on the board with a jumper and three in the period. Also contributing offensively for BU was junior center Alyssa James, who led the Bearcats with 17 points. James also recorded 10 rebounds and six blocks.
Largely absent from the scoresheet was junior guard Imani Watkins, who tallied just three points in 39 minutes of play. Watkins leads BU and the AE in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per contest.
Against the Retrievers, Watkins set-up her teammates, providing them with open looks and helping to execute BU’s game plan.
“Imani [Watkins] showed what kind of teammate she is tonight in that she’s not selfish, in that she’s a good team player and winning was more important to her than scoring,” Cimino said. “I told Imani that if it’s not going well for you offensively, then it should go really well for you defensively. She did a great job defensively; she did a great job shutting down one of their players in the second half.”
One Retriever the Bearcats couldn’t slow was freshman guard Te’yJah Oliver, who drained a career-best 26 points.
Despite Oliver’s notable offensive performance, the Retrievers trailed, 47-39, heading into the final quarter. They came within three, however, when junior guard Laura Castaldo nailed back-to-back threes. That’s the closest UMBC came to tying things up, as BU went 9-for-14 from the free-throw line down the stretch to secure its seven-point win.
The win served as a rematch of last season’s AE semifinal matchup, in which Binghamton came out on top, 49-41, to record its first playoff victory in five seasons. It also marked the second time in the last four years Binghamton has won its first conference game. Both wins have come under Cimino.
“I feel that we’ve had something to prove in this conference since Coach [Cimino] has become a coach here,” James said. “Starting off with this first win has definitely helped us and it’s going to push us through the rest of the season.”
Binghamton is set to return to action on Saturday at UMass Lowell. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Costello Athletic Center in Lowell, Massachusetts.