Vermont looked to end the Binghamton women’s basketball team’s three-game winning streak on Wednesday night. By the middle of the second quarter they had surged ahead to a 24-14 lead.
The Catamounts (6-15, 3-5 America East) had six 3-pointers in the first half and led by five at halftime. However, senior center Alyssa James did not let the Bearcats’ streak end as she led BU (15-7, 6-3 AE) to claim victory over the Catamounts, 62-48. The Bearcats now celebrate their first four-game winning streak in AE play in nearly seven years.
“[Vermont] shot the lights out of the ball in the first half,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “We had people’s hands in their faces and they were making deep threes, contested threes. They couldn’t miss.”
The Bearcats made key adjustments as they came back into the second half, putting more pressure on the periphery shooters and ditching their zone defense. Through their adjustments, the Bearcats allowed just 48 points on the night despite the Catamounts’ first-half surge. Vermont only managed one 3-pointer in the whole second half.
“They hit a lot of 3-pointers in the first half and we knew that they were gonna come out, like this is their gym, these are their hoops,” James said. “We knew they were gonna come out like that and we adjusted in the second half and made it happen.”
Senior guard Imani Watkins was also impressed with the adjustments Binghamton made in the second half. Watkins ended the game with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. She is the reigning AE Player of the Week after averaging 27 points and five rebound over her past two games.
“Our focus in the second half was stepping up, guarding the ball really well, and [putting on] a lot of defensive pressure,” Watkins said. “And I think that pressure turned into offense for us.”
However, the true bright spot of the game was James, who posted a double-double with 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. James played the entire game and shot a near-perfect nine-for-10 from the free-throw line. The team as a whole shot 17-for-20 from the stripe, an area it had been struggling with at moments throughout the season.
“When [James] starts three-for-three in the first half, it [makes] a heck of a difference,” Cimino said.
Sophomore guard Kai Moon was the third Binghamton player to reach double digits this game. After going a whole game without a shot made from the field while playing against New Hampshire, Moon hit a crucial three to keep Binghamton competitive in the third quarter.
“We did what we need to do,” Cimino said. “We got the ball inside. We got to the free-throw line and we didn’t turn the ball over. We wanted to have 10 or [fewer] turnovers today. That was the difference in the game and I thought we forced some really big turnovers on them.”
The Bearcats scored 17 points off of those turnovers while allowing Vermont only five points off of nine turnovers.
“It’s a game of runs and they made that first run,” Watkins said. “We didn’t stay down low. Then we went on a run of our own. We came out in the second half. We did what we were supposed to do — got to the free-throw line. We hit some big shots and we got the win.”
Now the Bearcats will face second-place Maine, whom they beat on the road 66-62 in overtime the last time the teams met.
“I expect [Maine] to be very hungry and to try redeem themselves from us stealing that win at their place,” Cimino said. “We know we have to be strong with the ball against them. They play really physical defense. They play the lanes really well. We’ve got to take care of the ball and then we’ve got to defend them and rebound.”
Binghamton’s rematch with Maine is scheduled for Saturday in Vestal, New York. Tipoff from the Events Center is scheduled for 1 p.m.