BANGOR, Maine — For Binghamton University head women’s basketball coach Linda Cimino, the 532-mile trip from Binghamton to play the University of Maine has always been a source of frustration.
But it was a joyous trip home on Saturday night as her Bearcats forced 25 UMaine turnovers, several coming at critical junctures of the game, and held the Black Bears to three points in overtime en route to a thrilling 66-62 victory in front of 1,282 fans at the Cross Insurance Center.
It was Cimino’s first road win over UMaine in her four years at the helm and extended her team’s winning streak to six games, improving to 10-4 overall, 1-0 in America East).
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Cimino, whose twin sister, Kelley, lives in Portland. “Maine has a real good team. They have two of the top players in the league and they run their stuff really well. It was a huge team effort. It was a great win.
UMaine (8-7, 1-1 AE) had won 23 of its previous 25 America East home games.
Senior all-conference, first-team guard Imani Watkins, the league’s leading scorer with 20.9 points per game, finished with a game-high 23 points. She was just 9-for-30 from the floor and 1-for-11 from the 3-point arc in the face of defensive efforts by UMaine sophomore Blanca Millan.
“She has guarded me better than anyone I have ever played against in this conference,” said Watkins, who added four steals. “She is really long, aggressive and really smart.”
Kai Moon posted 14 points, three steals and seven rebounds and Rebecca Carmody produced 12 points, five rebounds and four steals. Alyssa James had eight points and nine rebounds.
UMaine was paced by 21 points and two steals from Millan and 20 points, five rebounds and three assists by Julie Brosseau. Fanny Wadling contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists and Tanesha Sutton chipped in with nine rebounds, two assists and two steals to go with four points.
Van Buren’s Parise Rossignol had six rebounds, five assists and four steals, all career highs.
“I am so proud that we were able to execute, defensively, and got stops when we needed to,” Cimino said. “We had a foul to give late in the fourth quarter and into overtime so we upped our defensive intensity and pressure and that helped us turn the ball over around six times.”
It was a game of runs with UMaine leading by as many as nine on three occasions in the first half and Binghamton building its largest lead, four points, in the third quarter.
UMaine led 59-57 and had the ball with 1:09 left but Carmody tied it by poking a Brosseau inbounds pass free and beating everyone down the court for a layup.
“I just jumped up and tipped it and I found a wide-open court,” Carmody said.
Both teams had chances to win it in regulation with Millan’s short jumper failing to fall with four seconds left.
Wadling banked in a desperation 3-pointer just before the shot clock ran out to open the overtime for UMaine but the Black Bears never scored again. They missed their final seven shots and turning the ball over twice which led to four Binghamton points.
Watkins’ layup made it 62-61 with 3:57 left and the score stayed the same until she sank two free throws with 57 seconds remaining after stealing the ball from Wadling, who had just grabbed a defensive rebound. Wadling fouled Watkins going to the basket.
On UMaine’s next possession, Brosseau’s entry pass into the paint was deflected and a tie-up ensued with the possession arrow going to Binghamton.
Binghamton converted when James grabbed a loose ball during a scramble under the basket and laid it in with 20 seconds remaining.
Millan missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it and Watkins added a free throw.
“I was open. I’ve got to make it next time,” Millan said. “We had good shots in overtime but they didn’t go in.”
“It was a game we could have won but Binghamton is a good team and they made plays when they had to. We shot ourselves in the foot. We had 25 turnovers, most of them were due to us, and you aren’t going to win many games doing that,” UMaine interim head coach Amy Vachon said.
“It was our fault. We made a lot of silly turnovers,” Millan said.
“We had a nose for the ball and were aggressive [in the fourth quarter and overtime],” Watkins said.
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.