Early in the second quarter on Thursday night of the Binghamton women’s basketball team’s 67-59 loss to Stony Brook, Seawolves junior center Ayshia Baker attempted a running hook from the right block that was promptly sent back. The shot was rebounded by senior center Alyssa James, marking her 232nd career swat, and putting her in sole possession of the America East career blocks record.
Just 30 seconds later, senior guard Imani Watkins hit a layup, scoring her 1,837th career point to move into second-highest all-time points in program history. The duo continued its production on Sunday, as Watkins poured in an efficient 33 points in a blowout win over UMass Lowell, 76-46.
“[James is] a special player,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “I’m really proud of her. Hopefully she can break another record here and continue on as Defensive Player of the Year … [Watkins] came into the season with three goals: to get to the NCAA Tournament, to break the [Binghamton] all-time scoring record and to be Player of the Year. She’s hopefully on target to do all three.”
Coming off a loss to Albany, the Bearcats (12-7, 3-3 AE) aimed to rebound at home against Stony Brook (10-9, 2-4 AE) on Thursday. However, BU’s effort was inconsistent, as unforced errors led to turnovers and easy looks for the Seawolves in transition. Binghamton committed 10 turnovers in the game’s opening half and trailed for the entire second half. Ultimately, strong play from Watkins and James kept BU’s halftime deficit at five.
“We didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball in the first half, and we got ourselves in a hole,” Cimino said.
In the second half, BU hurt its own chances of a comeback repeatedly, struggling from the free-throw line. The team shot two-for-eight in the second half, and only 38 percent from the line for the game.
“We missed too many free throws, and it’s an important part of the game,” Cimino said. “I think if we make our free throws, we’re sitting here with a different turnout.”
Defensively, Binghamton struggled to contain Stony Brook junior guard Jerell Matthews, who tallied 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Matthews was able to score in a variety of ways, freeing herself off screens and creating off the dribble.
Watkins led Binghamton in scoring, pouring in a total of 21 points. James’ career night also featured a career-high in rebounding, ending the game with 19 points, 18 boards, three blocks and two steals. With this game marking Binghamton’s second straight loss, the team viewed Sunday’s game against the River Hawks (3-16, 0-6 AE) as a must-win.
“We need a win on Sunday,” Cimino said. “When you’re down and … you haven’t played well the last two games that, you need a game like that to win.”
Binghamton dominated the River Hawks on both ends of the court Sunday, correcting its mistakes from Thursday’s defeat. BU committed only 11 turnovers in the game and shot 83 percent from the charity stripe. Watkins’ 33-point performance was complemented by freshman guard Lizzy Spindler and sophomore guards Kai Moon and Carly Boland, who each scored in double figures. Binghamton’s engagement defensively kept UMass Lowell out of rhythm, creating deflections and poking the ball loose frequently. The Bearcats nearly led from wire to wire, trailing for only a few minutes in the first quarter.
“I thought everyone who stepped on the court today contributed in some way for this win,” Cimino said. “We forced 29 turnovers and were able to score 30 points off [them]. Ultimately, that was the difference in the game.”
Binghamton will look to start its first in-conference winning streak when it takes on UMBC this Wednesday at home. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.