UMBC owns a convincing 13-5 advantage in this America East series, but Binghamton has won three of the last four meetings. The Bearcats are undefeated in four road games this season and have won those games by an average of five goals. The Retrievers are 2-1 at home and have outscored their opponents by 4.3 goals per game.
No. 20 Binghamton (9-1 overall and 3-0 in the league) is off to its best start in program history and is enjoying an eight-game winning streak. The defense ranks sixth in Division I and leads the conference in fewest goals allowed per game at 7.6. Senior goalkeeper Tanner Cosens ranks seventh in the country in goals-against average (7.56) and 19th in save percentage (.543).
UMBC (4-6, 2-1) has won four of its last seven games, but must bounce back from a 10-5 setback at No. 5 Albany a week ago. After surrendering 11.7 goals per game last spring to rank 59th in the nation, the defense has trimmed that average to 9.3 and ranks 22nd. Junior long-stick midfielder Billy O'Hara ranks second in the America East in caused turnovers per contest (1.6) and seventh in the league in ground balls average (3.4).
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville on Saturday at 7 p.m.
1) Gaining an edge in possessions. UMBC tied a season low in offensive output in that loss to Albany because the team lost several key categories that can help an offense find its rhythm. The Retrievers won only three of 19 faceoffs and collected just 13 ground balls to the Great Danes' 34. Those numbers severely limited the offense's ability to convert chances into goals, and coach Ryan Moran said the team must do a better job on faceoffs and ground balls to help tilt the possession battle in its favor.
"If you're not able to balance the possessions within a game and you're not able to make some saves, it's going to be tough," he said. "Our Albany game is a great example. We had 20 possessions, and they had 34. It's going to be tough if you're just playing a ton more defense than offense and you're not having a lot of opportunities to score."
2) Defending the paint. Just as there is a paint area on the basketball court, Moran has defined a similar section on the lacrosse field, which he described as the territory within 9 yards of the front of the net and bounded on the sides by the hash marks. And that area has been a gold mine for Binghamton. According to Moran, of 62 percent of goals the Bearcats have scored on six-on-six sets, 51 percent of those tallies were unassisted and in the paint. So the onus is on UMBC to patrol that territory and force Binghamton players to attempt shots from the perimeter.
"They get to the middle, and they get those high-quality looks," Moran said. "So it's no surprise that they're shooting 34 percent. They do a great job of getting to that area. … They're hitting their offensive stride at the right time, that's for sure."
3) Keeping eyes on No. 10. Redshirt senior attackman Tom Moore has thrived at Binghamton. After stints at Denver and Jacksonville, Moore ranks third in Division I in average points (5.4), sixth in goals (3.0), and eighth in assists (2.4). Not surprisingly, Moore leads the Bearcats in goals (30), assists (24), and shots (77). Slowing Moore as a playmaker will be one of the top priorities for the UMBC defense.
"He's a really talented player, and they like to have the ball in his stick a lot," Moran said. "I don't think there's any surprise in any game plan for the people who have played Binghamton that No. 10 is the one that stirs their drink a lot. I think they play well together, and a lot of those goals that occur in the paint are definitely from him. He's got an innate knack of getting to his strong hand and get downhill and score goals from inside of eight yards."