With just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter, senior guard Imani Watkins stepped back and sunk a 3-pointer, bringing the entire crowd to its feet in applause. This 3-pointer put her in first place all-time for scoring at Binghamton, breaking Bess Greenberg’s previous record from 2001 of 2,024 points. Even though Watkins only finished with five points, the Bearcats (19-8, 10-4 America East) handily defeated the visiting River Hawks, 52-38, on BU’s Senior Day.
“Today was a special game for us to honor [senior center Alyssa James] and [Watkins], who have done so much for our program and me personally as a coach,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “It’s a bittersweet day for us, but I’m really proud to honor them in front of all their friends and family and I’m definitely happy to get the win.”
BU was dominant defensively, holding UML (4-23, 1-13 AE) to just four points in the second quarter.
James also earned a major milestone on Saturday when she snagged her 1,000th career rebound in the second half, ultimately finishing with a double-double. Early in the game, she demonstrated her scoring abilities in the post, finishing with a game-high 11 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks while adding four steals and two assists.
“I think it was just a matter of circumstance,” James added. “This is the second time we have played this team now, and their personnel, at least postwise, hasn’t changed much.”
Binghamton controlled the tempo throughout the game. In the opening minutes of the first period, BU forced UML to take a timeout after opening up an 8-2 lead. Junior forward Rebecca Carmody fended off three defenders in the paint to curl in the timeout-forcing layup.
Despite the quick timeout, BU did not take its foot off the gas. The team worked together and had seven different players score, showcasing the Bearcats’ depth and chemistry.
“It’s confidence, that’s all it is, and I think that the more confidence we have, the better we play, pass, shoot and defend,” Watkins said. “Going into Albany next week, all those things are going to matter and everyone is starting to see now that we don’t care who scores, we don’t care who takes the shots. If it goes in, it goes in.”
Carmody and sophomore guard Carly Boland stepped up in particular on Saturday, contributing in a variety of ways. Carmody finished with eight points, four boards, two dimes and a steal, while Boland scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added a rejection and a steal.
“We played really good team defense tonight and I think that we have to continue to improve our team defense in order to win, especially against Albany and Hartford,” Cimino said. “More importantly, we have to take care of the ball. The two teams that we play next week lead our conference in steals, so I’d like to see us play more consistently for 40 minutes both offensively and defensively [by] giving up [fewer] offensive rebounds and turning the ball over less.”
Sophomore guard Kai Moon continued to contribute in multiple facets of the game. Moon tied James’ game-high 11 points while dishing out six assists, blocking three shots and corralling four rebounds and a steal.
“We don’t care who gets the blocks, we don’t care who gets the rebounds, as long as at the end of the game we’re on top,” Watkins said.
Despite UML’s 1-13 conference record, the River Hawks played even with the Bearcats in the second half, matching their 21 points. The difference between turnovers in the second half was just one, in Binghamton’s favor.
Sitting just a game behind Albany and Maine for first place in the conference, Binghamton is set to pick up play this coming Thursday, Feb. 22 against the Great Danes. Tipoff for BU’s home finale is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Events Center in Vestal, New York.