The Binghamton women’s basketball team moves into finals week with two dominant victories under their belt. BU (6-4) began its weekend with a win over a depleted Bryant team, holding the Bulldogs (1-9) to just 19 points in the first half. Both offenses struggled to convert on opportunities, as the matchup proved to be a low-scoring defensive battle with Binghamton taking the edge, 55-47. BU then returned to the Events Center on Sunday for more nonconference play against the NJIT Highlanders. The Bearcats turned the Highlanders (0-10) into lowlanders in a blowout victory, 67-36.
On Thursday, senior guard Imani Watkins led the way for the Bearcats against Bryant, scoring a game-high 19 points and maintaining her top spot in America East scoring with 180 points, and 20 per game (190 and average and 19 after Sunday).
“I think our defense, pushing the ball in transition, finding each other and having the confidence made the difference in this one,” Watkins said.
The BU defense was a legitimate force against the Bulldogs, finishing with 19 takeaways and a 12-3 advantage in steals. Senior center Alyssa James maintained her first-place spot in the nation in blocks, finishing the strong defensive effort with five and bringing her season total up to 44 and her average up to 4.9 per game (48 and average at 4.8 after Sunday).
Despite coming into Thursday’s game with a 1-7 record, the Bulldogs came up just one game short of an NCAA Tournament emergence a year ago. BU head coach Linda Cimino stressed this fact to the Bearcats during training sessions.
“They’re a really good team, they’re scrappy and they were down against URI and then had a huge fourth-quarter comeback,” Cimino said. “So I was a little nervous there at the end of the fourth quarter, there when they hit a three and a couple transition layups.”
Binghamton opened with a 15-point advantage late in the fourth quarter with only 4:30 remaining, but a flash of the Bulldogs’ tenacity and grit was shown late in the game. After a couple of quick layups, a turnover from James turned into a 3-pointer for Bryant, and the Bulldogs were within eight points with just under three minutes remaining.
BU recuperated and snagged some key rebounds and steals to extinguish Bryant’s second wind of momentum. Each team scored another basket, respectively, to end the game with an eight-point gap in Binghamton’s favor.
“Another great defensive effort today — holding a team to under 40 points at this level is not an easy task,” Cimino said. “I also thought we moved the ball really well on offense and were able to get the extra pass and I thought that really propelled our offense.”
BU rode the momentum of its strong defensive performance into Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The Bearcats kept the tempo up and dominated the visiting Highlanders to move to 6-4 on the season. Some familiar faces led the way for Binghamton, but the BU bench took advantage of the opportunity and showcased both its scoring and defensive skills.
The BU scoring effort on Sunday was led by redshirt junior guard Jasmine Sina, who benefited off James’ dominant performance in the paint. Sina netted a game-high 15 points, all of which came from 3-point range, while James finished with 14 points, 10 boards, four blocks and three steals.
“I always have thought that I’m a more defensive post than an offensive post, I can do both, but I’m definitely more defensive and glad to help out where I can,” James added.
The BU bench contributed in all facets of the game. Sophomore guards Carly Boland and Karlee Krchnavi, along with freshman forward Kaylee Wasco and freshman guard Lizzy Spindler all played for at least 13 minutes each. Krchnavi shined in an extended role, earning eight boards, two assists and a steal, while hitting one from downtown.
“We’re excited that we have some time off, the players have to get into exams this week, and that’s important,” Cimino said. “They’ve earned this rest and they need this rest, so we’re really excited. We have three nonconference games remaining and we’re hoping that we can win all three.”
Due to finals week, the Bearcats are not scheduled to return to the court until Monday, Dec. 18. BU is set to travel to Ithaca, New York to take on Cornell, and tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Newman Arena at Cornell University.