The Binghamton women’s basketball team ended its regular season in heartbreaking fashion this past weekend. The Bearcats (19-10, 10-6 America East) threw away a 17-point halftime lead against Albany on Thursday evening to fall 57-53 in the final home game of the season. Following that, the Bearcats traveled to Hartford on Sunday afternoon, where a late fourth-quarter collapse allowed the Hawks (17-12, 9-7 AE) to take a 61-45 victory.
The two losses sent the Bearcats into the AE Tournament on a sour note, as they match the longest AE losing streak the team had all season. Binghamton now extends its overall losing streak to Albany (23-6, 12-4 AE) to 17 games, and failed to achieve its first 20-win season as a Division I program.
“We’ve just got to be tough,” said senior guard Imani Watkins on Thursday night. “No excuses. We’ve just got to be better.”
Watkins came out on fire against Albany in the first half of Thursday’s contest. She shot five-of-10 from the field in the first two quarters, including three triples, for a total of 18 points, coming close to outscoring the entire Albany team in the half. Sophomore guard Karlee Krchnavi added six points of her own on two 3-pointers, contributing to Binghamton’s six first-half triples.
Defensively, BU did not allow the Great Danes to produce much offense. Albany turned it over 13 times in the half, shot 36 percent from the field and was outrebounded by Binghamton, 22-14. The Bearcats entered the halftime locker room with a seemingly insurmountable 17-point lead, 39-22.
During the second half, whatever shooting prowess Watkins had in the first half was gone, as she couldn’t get her shots to fall. The rest of the team shared her struggles, going two-for-11 in the third. Albany’s defense grew pesky, forcing steals and points in transition. By the time the third quarter ended, Binghamton’s 17-point lead had been cut to four.
“I thought we got good looks,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “We just missed them. We shot air balls today. We never shoot air balls from the three.”
Albany continued to chip away, until a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Mackenzie Trpcic tied the game for the Great Danes. A couple of minutes later another long ball, this time from redshirt senior guard Jessica Féquière, gave Albany the lead for good. Trpcic went on to hit yet another bucket from downtown to seal the game for the Great Danes. Binghamton scored only 14 second-half points, hit only four field goals and shot 6-for-13 from the line.
“We backed down from their pressure,” Watkins said. “We stopped listening. We completely went away from the game plan, we didn’t execute down the stretch.”
Adding to Binghamton’s troubles was an injury to sophomore guard Kai Moon, who injured her foot near the end of the third quarter. She did not return to the game, and has been ruled out indefinitely by the team.
“Losing [Moon] in the second half killed us, not only offensively but defensively,” Cimino said. “It was a huge factor … losing [Moon] hurt.”
BU’s shooting woes continued into the first half of Sunday’s game at Hartford. The team struggled mightily from the field, shooting under 30 percent and coughing the ball up 15 times. The Bearcats remained in contention at halftime only because their defense was decent, thanks to senior center Alyssa James’ seven rebounds.
The beginning of the third quarter featured Hartford establishing a 13-point advantage, but the Bearcats began to turn the tide. Watkins hit a couple of jumpers, while the Bearcats forced missed shots by Hartford. A jump shot by freshman forward Kaylee Wasco pulled the Bearcats within one point, 46-45, and it seemed as if the team could do to Hartford what Albany had done to them three days prior.
However, Binghamton did not score again for the rest of the game. Six turnovers in the final five minutes allowed Hartford to finish the game on a 15-0 run. The Hawks captured the victory, 61-45, giving the Bearcats a defeat in their final game of the regular season.
Entering the weekend, the Bearcats were in contention to potentially grab the top seed in the upcoming AE Tournament. These two losses, however, dropped Binghamton all the way to the third seed, BU’s highest finish since the 2010-11 season. Despite the losing streak, Cimino remains optimistic.
“The season’s not over,” Cimino said. “We have a lot of season left to play, and this is a postseason tournament team. We’re going to be playing in a postseason tournament, and we need to be better. We need to know that when things aren’t going our way, we have to respond.”
The Bearcats get the week to rest and prepare for the AE Tournament in Portland, Maine. Entering as the third seed, the team will play a rematch against sixth-seed Hartford in the first round on Saturday, March 4. Tipoff from Cross Insurance Arena is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.