The last time the Binghamton women’s basketball team and Yale met, BU (20-12) was down six points with less than a minute left in the game. Then the senior duo of guard Imani Watkins and center Alyssa James took over. After cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to two, Watkins drove straight to the basket to send the game into overtime. Despite the comeback, Binghamton lost that game in overtime, 73-69. Now, playing Yale again in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) Quarterfinal round, Binghamton fell again despite a strong final push. Yale (17-13) defeated the Bearcats, 70-64, and ended BU’s season.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” BU head coach Linda Cimino said. “It’s not the way we wanted to end our season, but I’m proud of our effort and the way we fought back in the second half.”
The Bearcats came out of the tunnel ice cold, shooting just 24.3 percent from the field in the first half and not making a single three. Watkins, the most prolific scorer in BU program history, ended the first half going 1-12 from the field and 0-2 from downtown, scoring her only field goal with three minutes left in the first half.
“[Watkins] is so hard on herself and she felt bad. She was disappointed in the way she was playing,” Cimino said.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, shot an efficient 48.3 clip from the field. A major difference in the game was the number of points in the paint, where Yale scored 16 points, compared to BU’s four. Those points may have forced Binghamton’s attention to the post, allowing Yale to be scorching from the perimeter up until the half, shooting 57.1 percent from long range.
The Bearcats seemed like they were destined for a blowout, down 37-20 going into the half. They were not going to let the beatdown continue, though. The Bearcats sprung an energy-filled 11-1 run to start the second half. During that span, they shot 75 percent from the field, and 100 percent from three and the charity stripe. Their defensive pressure helped fuel the run, forcing several turnovers, leading to several scoring opportunities. The defensive surge contributed to the Bearcats capturing 17 steals on the day. However, even with BU’s relentless stretch, Yale managed to keep an 11-point lead going into the final quarter.
“It definitely was tough. You know, we struggled to get going and our shots not falling didn’t help, but the second half they started to fall, which started our momentum,” junior forward Rebecca Carmody said.
Binghamton did not back down. Led by Watkins, who started to take control in the fourth quarter, the Bearcats trimmed their deficit to five with about 2 1/2 minutes to go after a 3-point shot by sophomore guard Carly Boland. With Watkins driving straight to the basket with ease and the momentum on BU’s side, a victory suddenly seemed possible. Unfortunately, the Bearcats could not pull off the comeback, falling 70-64.
“[Watkins] was able to lead this team in the second half and I’m really, really proud of her,” Cimino said. “It would have been easy for her to just pack it in, but she didn’t do that tonight and Watkins is a great player and she’s a good leader and I’m really proud of her and I’m proud to be her coach.”
This Bearcats made their first postseason game in their Division I program history. Watkins became the highest scorer in program history and James posted the most blocks in both program and America East history.
“Proud of the season that we had,” Cimino said. “I thought our young women did a great job this year, made a historic run and continue to build for the future of this program.”