The Binghamton women’s basketball team entered Saturday with an opportunity to move into a tie for second place in the America East (AE) standings. In a clash of red-hot teams, Maine was able to dictate the game’s tempo and physicality early to comfortably defeat the Bearcats, 61-38. The Black Bears (15-8, 8-2 AE) were able to keep BU (15-8, 6-4 AE) out of rhythm with its defensive game plan and led by a significant margin for the majority of the game.
“Gotta give a lot of credit to Maine’s defense,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “They made it very difficult for us to score today. Maine pressured us and they made it really hard for our key players to get the ball in the spots they wanted to.”
In the first quarter, the Black Bears’ offense featured strong, straight drives to the basket and well-executed perimeter shooting. Maine shot eight-of-13 from the field in the opening period, including four-of-five shooting from downtown. Its proficiency — combined with using most of the shot clock on many possessions — heightened the importance of Binghamton’s possessions.
The Bearcats’ offense was stagnant. Senior guard Imani Watkins struggled to find open shots because Maine sophomore guard Blanca Millan repeatedly kept her from getting to the rim, forcing Watkins to settle for tough shots. Additionally, Millan matched Binghamton’s scoring for the quarter with seven points. Her play on both ends of the court propelled Maine to a 20-7 advantage after the opening quarter.
“Millan’s one of the best players in the league,” Cimino said. “She plays really good defense. She can score offensively from the outside and inside … If we see her in the playoffs, we’ll have to make adjustments on her game.”
The Bearcats were able to keep pace with Maine for the remainder of the first half, but still operated uncharacteristically on offense. BU entered halftime shooting just 33 percent from the field while not attempting a single free throw. Senior center Alyssa James took just two shots in the half as the Black Bears frequently denied her the ball in the post, making BU’s guards hesitant to get James’ touches down low. Maine led Binghamton 34-20 at the break.
“At halftime, I told the players we need to get [James] touches,” Cimino said. “I thought our guards did not do a good job of getting her the ball. We had moments where we could’ve gotten her the ball and settled outside. We didn’t capitalize on that.”
In the second half, Binghamton was stuck playing catch-up, unable to make a dent in the Black Bears’ lead. The Bearcats’ struggles continued offensively, totaling just 18 points in the half. BU had its worst shooting performance of the season, shooting just 25 percent from the field and six-of-19 from 3-point range. Combined with just eight free throws attempted for the game, Binghamton was unable to manufacture points consistently.
“Our lack of ability to respond when our shots weren’t going in from the outside [surprised me],” Cimino said. “If you’re not shooting the ball well from the outside, that’s your time to attack the basket and try to get to the free-throw line.”
Millan led Maine with a well-rounded performance, totaling 22 points, nine rebounds, five steals and two rejections. Watkins was held to 15 points on 18 shots, but still led BU in scoring. Sophomore guard Kai Moon added 10 points, and no other Bearcat scored in double figures. The Black Bears extended their winning streak to six while the loss snapped BU’s four-game winning streak.
Binghamton has the opportunity for a quick turnaround with their next game on Monday night against Stony Brook. In their previous matchup, turnovers and missed free throws contributed to BU’s defeat. Tipoff from the Island Federal Credit Union Arena in Stony Brook, New York is scheduled for 7 p.m.