The Binghamton women’s basketball team is off to its best start since the 2011-12 season. The Bearcats (3-1) kicked off their road trip with a strong team performance, taking down Southern Utah, 72-66.
“This is such a great experience,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “The smiles on their faces have been tremendous. Some of these kids have never been on a plane before so getting the chance to come out here to hit a couple new states and have an opportunity to bond is really helping our culture.”
Senior guard Imani Watkins led the scoring effort for the Bearcats, putting up a game-high 19 points, but the offensive production was a collective job. Sophomore guard Kai Moon finished one rebound away from a double-double, ending the game with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
“Everybody stepped up,” Watkins said. “We stuck together through adversity. We were down a little in the first half but we rallied and came out with the win.”
After getting outscored 18-11 in the first quarter, the BU offense came back and pulled ahead to lead 39-36 at the half. Junior forward Rebecca Carmody started for BU and played a solid 30 minutes, contributing in multiple facets of the game. She finished with 12 points and eight rebounds after sinking all six of her shots from the free-throw line.
“[Carmody] had some family here from Utah, and I think that helped her,” Cimino said. “She was playing with a lot of confidence tonight and I was really proud of her. She played really well defensively and did a great job offensively for us as well.”
BU played with high intensity and often rode its momentum to big scoring runs. Moon sunk a go-ahead 3-ball at the half, which would prove to make a huge difference in this game, with Binghamton winning by just six points.
Senior center Alyssa James showcased her versatility on both sides of the court, scoring 12 points with nine rebounds, a game-high five blocks and a pair of steals.
“Our defensive intensity in the third quarter was unbelievable,” Cimino said. “[James] played really, really well and had three or four blocks in a couple minutes.”
The eventful third quarter served as a precursor to a nerve-wracking fourth. BU saw its biggest lead of the game with just six minutes left in the game. Sophomore guard Carly Boland drilled a 3-point shot to put BU up, 65-54. In need of an immediate spark, the Thunderbirds (0-3) began to claw themselves back into the game.
“Together we were able to progress defensively throughout the entire game,” James said.
Southern Utah dominated with its reserves, forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive glass to go on a 7-0 run, bringing the Thunderbirds within four points of Binghamton with four minutes remaining. The Bearcats fought back to keep the game scoreless for a couple of minutes before coming together for a 7-2 stretch, solidifying their lead at 72-63 with less than a minute remaining.
“Our defense is what won this game,” Carmody said. “Credit to [James] and [Boland] with some big blocks. Everyone was boxing out and getting rebounds, so it was a good team effort.”
Boland finished with six points, five rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal off the bench. Redshirt junior guard Jasmine Sina contributed 31 minutes of strong play, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Binghamton is set to pick up play tomorrow night against Tulsa in the Great Alaska Shootout. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. from the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska.