ORONO — Binghamton University may have been playing its second straight road game Saturday afternoon, but the Bearcats quickly warmed to the surroundings in Alfond Arena.
Binghamton took advantage of its aggressiveness and unselfishness in the open court, shredding the University of Maine’s defense while breezing to a 78-52 America East women’s basketball victory.
The Bearcats (10-7, 3-1 AE), who had struggled in a 55-38 loss Wednesday at Maryland Baltimore County, nearly matched that output in the first half against the Black Bears (3-14, 1-4 AE).
“So much for us is how we play defense and are we locked in defensively, are we making it difficult for the opponent to score, are we boxing out, rebounding,” said UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett. “All those things that seem to be little are huge for us. I thought right from the get-go we made them feel very comfortable.”
Binghamton utilized its effective transition game to race to an 18-point halftime lead, then poured it on in the second half to put the game out of reach early.
The Bears had trouble defending the Bearcats. The hosts magnified their problems by shooting poorly, which enabled Binghamton to rebound and run.
“We kind of made them look good because they pushed the ball every time and we just weren’t getting back,” said UMaine sophomore Katelyn Vanderhoff. “They were very good at passing and knowing the open person, so every time they got back, even if we had one person back, they would just dish it off.”
Led by all-conference guard Andrea Holmes, the Bearcats played solid man-to-man defense and showed off a well-rounded offensive attack that scored against UMaine with relative ease.
Holmes tossed in a game-high 20 points and handed out nine assists without committing a turnover. She also grabbed seven rebounds.
Binghamton shot 48 percent (33-for-69) from the floor, including an impressive 59 percent (19-for-32) in the second half, in a dominating performance.
“Today we just had everyone clicking on the same cylinder,” Holmes said. “Everybody was involved and we had fun today.”
The Bearcats also outrebounded the Black Bears 48-36.
Viive Rebane, Jackie Ward and Orla O’Reilly scored 12 points apiece and Jasbriel Swain added seven points, eight rebounds and five assists for Binghamton, which scored 34 points in the paint and registered 20 second-chance points.
UMaine, which shot only 32 percent, was paced by 13 points from Amber Smith. Vanderhoff posted 10 points and eight rebounds, while Ashleigh Roberts and Ali Nalivaika (4 blocked shots) added 10 points each.
“We’ve just got to play as a team,” Vanderhoff said of UMaine’s mentality heading into Thursday’s game at Vermont. “Obviously tonight we didn’t show up. Each one of us has to really look inside ourselves and see and come every day to practice and every day to games.”
Binghamton took charge during the last 9 1/2 minutes of the first half, during which it outscored UMaine 22-11.
Orla O’Reilly ignited the initial 8-0 surge with a 3-pointer, then Kara Elofson, O’Reilly and Jackie Ward made layups off UMaine misses — during a span of 1:05 — to push the lead to 16.
Jaymie Druding countered for UMaine with a rebound basket, but Holmes hit a pair of runners to fuel another 11-2 run that gave the Bearcats a 35-12 advantage with 3:44 left in the half.
The Bears never got closer than 18 points after that.
“To have 23 assists out of 33 field goals is quite impressive,” Blodgett said of the Bearcats. “They obviously deserved to win, because they wanted it a hell of a lot more than we did.”
Blodgett said UMaine’s defense broke down because the Bears weren’t playing together.
“We didn’t talk on defense, we didn’t communicate and that’s a huge piece of the game,” she said.
Maine was again without junior all-conference forward Samantha Wheeler, who has missed 12 straight games with postconcussion symptoms.