The Binghamton women’s basketball team traveled to Youngstown State University on Wednesday and captured its first postseason game in Division I program history, in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI). The Bearcats (20-11) earned a victory by 11 points, 70-59, earning their twentieth win for the first time in the program’s Division I era.
“We struggled in the first quarter, we had a little bit of a matchup problem and we were a little unsure of their offense with only one day to prepare,” said BU head coach Linda Cimino. “But I thought we did a great job in the second quarter and an even better job in the third and fourth.”
Binghamton contemplated the thought that its season was over following a heartbreaking overtime defeat to Hartford in the America East (AE) Tournament approximately two weeks ago, but BU was selected to play in the WBI this past Monday. The Bearcats were determined to come out with a victory, despite getting off to a slow start.
Binghamton went into the second quarter trailing the Penguins (16-16), 18-9. The Bearcats, however, showcased their grit and came back to tie the game just before the half at 33 apiece.
“[Senior guard Imani Watkins] made some big shots for us, she hit a couple of huge 3-pointers,” Cimino said. “She’s a competitor. [Watkins] didn’t want this to be her last game, you look at the two seniors and how they played and everyone fed off their energy.”
Watkins tied the game on a hard-fought layup that earned her a trip to the line. Watkins then sunk the free-throw shot and BU secured its first advantage since it was up 2-0 in the first 10 seconds of the game.
“It was amazing, you could just feel the energy,” Watkins said. “All three of us [Watkins, senior center Alyssa James and redshirt junior guard Jasmine Sina] collectively were leaders tonight. We stepped up and hit some huge shots tonight and [James] was amazing tonight — the beast is back.”
Unfortunately for BU, redshirt junior guard Nikki Arbanas cashed in on a 3-point shot at the buzzer to give Youngstown a two-point lead at the half, 36-34.
Watkins and James made the most of what could have been the last performance of their collegiate careers. Watkins finished with a game-high 27 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. James, on the other hand, scored 18 points, while grabbing eight rebounds, rejecting four shots and adding two steals.
James was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball, as she did everything within her power to send BU to the next round of the 16-team tournament.
“It definitely feels good, I’m hoping that each year this program can get a little better,” James said. “Of course we wanted to get to NCAAs this year and of course that didn’t happen, so this is definitely a step in the right direction for us.”
Sina was dominant on offense. She finished the night shooting 100 percent overall with two threes, a two-point basket and two free throws to account for her 10-point performance, while adding six dimes and two rebounds.
“We have grown so much and you can just tell by the players we have brought in, the culture we have developed over the years and the team that we have developed as well,” Sina said. “I’m really proud of this team and to be a part of it.”
Watkins turned it on from behind the arc at the end of the third quarter to give BU the offensive production it needed. She connected on two straight triples to open up a 51-47 lead with just over a minute and a half remaining in the third quarter.
This scoring momentum proved to be contagious. Watkins drew two defenders and drove in the paint only to dish it out to Sina, who sunk a three to give Binghamton a six-point edge early in the fourth. Sophomore guard Kai Moon joined in on the fun and added a three of her own, propelling BU to a nine-point lead and forcing the Penguins to call a timeout.
The Bearcats never looked back and held their lead for the remaining six minutes of the contest.
Binghamton is set to return to the court on either March 18 or 19. The Bearcats are scheduled to take on the winner of tomorrow night’s game between Yale and Northeastern.