Senior guard Imani Watkins fell just three points short of setting the program record after putting up 16 in the Binghamton women’s basketball team’s 52-38 victory over Vermont on Wednesday night.
The Bearcats (18-8, 9-4 America East) set the tone defensively throughout, repeatedly forcing the Catamounts (8-18, 5-8 AE) into taking tough shots.
“We’re at our best when [sophomore guard Kai Moon] is scoring, when she is attacking and getting to the free-throw line,” Watkins said. “That’s when we’re winning games. And I’m on my way out so she has to know that she has the ability and is capable on any given night to be in double figures.”
The crowd rose to its feet and applauded Watkins as BU head coach Linda Cimino removed the star scorer from the game with one minute remaining. Cimino cited the fact that Watkins’ family will be at the team’s senior day this coming Saturday.
“I’m really proud of our team, we had a great defensive effort,” Cimino said. “Any time you can hold a team to 38 points is a testament to how good our defense was tonight. Although we didn’t score a lot and shoot the ball well, we were still able to get it done on the defensive end.”
Watkins was held to just one 3-pointer in the first half, but the rest of her teammates stepped up. Junior forward Rebecca Carmody filled the void, scoring highly contested layups in the lane, finishing the half with eight points and seven rebounds. She finished just two rebounds short of a double-double, with 10 points, eight rebounds, one rejection and one steal.
Moon put on an all-around clinic, finishing just three assists short of a triple-double. The dynamic guard outrebounded senior center Alyssa James and finished with a double-double scoring 12 points with a game-high 13 boards along with seven assists, a block and a steal.
“I’ve been working on my post skills a lot, I think my rebounding really reflected that tonight, any way I can help my team is great,” Moon said. “To outrebound [James] feels pretty good.”
Freshman forward Kaylee Wasco shined in her sixth start of the season for the Bearcats, playing 29 minutes. The tall forward contributed with a fundamentally sound game, finishing with four points, two rebounds and a block. She was a force to be reckoned with in the paint, using savvy post moves to drive in a layup early in the third quarter.
“[Wasco] is a great player and she would be playing a heck of a lot more if she wasn’t playing behind [James], who I think is the best post player in the conference,” Cimino said. “[Wasco] has come a long way and she was a big-time recruit for us to get, she goes against [sophomore forward Olivia Ramil, junior center Jodi-Marie Ramil] and [James] in practice so she is only going to continue to get better and better.”
James struggled offensively, finishing with just three points. The seasoned veteran still collected 11 boards, blocked six shots and added two steals.
“It’s definitely a team win and I think everyone is boosted because we’re having fun and still working hard and getting better every day,” Watkins added.
The Binghamton defense stepped up against a team that shoots the three-ball extremely well despite its 8-18 record. BU’s defense held Vermont to just five 3-pointers on 25 attempts. The Catamounts have upset two of the conference’s top teams in Albany and New Hampshire in the month of February, largely due to their prowess from downtown.
“We need to play consistent basketball for 40 minutes and our league is very tough this year — it has improved a lot in the four years that I’ve been here,” Cimino said. “We know that we have to come out and really defend and move the ball to win games, and you can’t take anyone for granted so we need to come in on Saturday ready and prepared.”
Binghamton is set to pick up play against UMass Lowell this coming Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.