With time winding down in the first half, the senior tandem of guard Imani Watkins and center Alyssa James executed an otherwise pedestrian play. After receiving an outlet pass, Watkins passed the ball behind an Army defense — which was lagging off a missed shot — and connected with James for an open layup, marking James’ thousandth career point as a Bearcat
“[James is] a tremendous player,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “She’s helped us build this program and helped build the culture the way we wanted.”
Despite James’ milestone achievement, the Binghamton women’s basketball team (0-1) ultimately faltered against the Black Knights (1-0) in Friday’s season opener, 73-61. Numerous turnovers and poor shooting from behind the arc left the Bearcats incapable of pulling within striking distance of an Army team that is favorited to win the Patriot League this season.
“For our first game, we were very competitive against a very physical and disciplined West Point team,” Cimino said. “But we need to take care of the ball better and get on the boards a little better.”
While the Bearcats won the turnover battle, 23-20, the Black Knights were able to capitalize on mistakes more effectively, as Army outscored Binghamton in points-off-turnovers, 24-13.
Despite Binghamton’s struggles with taking care of the ball, BU remained competitive against Army for the majority of the first half. After an uneventful start, Army surged ahead with an 11-2 run as the first quarter wound down to take a six-point lead. In the quarter’s final seconds, however, sophomore guard Kai Moon used an impressive combination of crossovers to free herself from the Black Knights’ defense and sink a pull-up three at the buzzer, halting Army’s momentum by cutting its lead in half. Moon’s development will serve as a barometer for the Bearcats’ overall improvement this season.
“[Moon is] very valuable to us,” Cimino said. “She’s going to be a very valuable piece to our success both offensively and defensively.”
Binghamton remained in a tight battle with the Black Knights for the opening minutes of the second quarter, but an 18-2 run by Army left the Bearcats at a 14-point deficit late in the half. BU relinquished its final lead of the game with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half, as turnovers and poor rebounding limited the amount of opportunities Binghamton had to retake the lead. The Bearcats had a difficult time matching Army’s physicality due to James being in foul trouble. After committing two fouls in the game’s first five minutes, James spent most of the first half on the bench, handicapping Binghamton on both ends of the court.
“Alyssa got in a little bit of foul trouble early on, which hurt our momentum,” Cimino said. “We have to do a better job next game of taking care of the ball.”
The second half featured Army producing a significantly more efficient offense than Binghamton, as the Black Knights shot 40 percent from the field, compared to just 27 percent from the Bearcats. Army eventually cruised to a 12-point victory, countering any Bearcat momentum with a run of its own.
Watkins’ 21-point performance and Moon’s 14 points paced Binghamton offensively, but not much offense was generated outside of the BU backcourt. Despite James’ foul trouble, but managed to dominate defensively, recording seven blocks and four steals in limited playing time.
Highly touted freshman forward Kaylee Wasco made her Binghamton debut in Friday’s game, recording two points, two rebounds and a block in 14 minutes of action, whose presence near the basket altered many of Army’s shots in the paint.
“I was pleased with Kaylee’s performance,” Cimino said. “She did a good job defensively. She’s a strong, physical post player, and with more experience, she’s gonna gain confidence.”
Binghamton hits the court again tonight in its home opener against SUNY Cortland. Tipoff from the Events Center in Vestal, New York is scheduled for 7 p.m.