For the Binghamton University men’s basketball team, Wednesday evening’s exhibition match was an opportunity to see some results from offseason work.
Although unofficial, the Bearcats earned a 67-58 victory over Division II East Stroudsburg University, a positive start for a program with a lot of potential.
Junior center Kyrie Sutton dominated the stat sheet, posting 21 points and 19 rebounds while shooting nearly 82 percent from the floor. At 6 feet 9 inches, Sutton is the tallest player on the roster this season, and his size proved to be advantageous in Wednesday’s win.
‘I just had to play big for my team,’ Sutton said. ‘I come out and try and play as hard as I can.’
Sutton opened BU’s scoring with two emphatic dunks, giving his team an early lead in a game in which the Bearcats never trailed.
Senior forward Greer Wright, a unanimous selection to America East’s preseason All-Conference team, scored nine points while dishing out seven assists.
Interim head coach Mark Macon was pleased with the overall performance, but knows his team has a lot of early-season kinks to work out.
‘There are a lot of things that we have to learn,’ Macon said following the game. ‘That’s the learning process. When you’re learning something new, that’s what’s going to happen in this offense.’
East Stroudsburg grabbed four more rebounds than the Bearcats, including seven more on the offensive end. With Binghamton’s dominating size, players knew what needed to be improved.
‘Our offensive and defensive rebounding,’ said Wright, who registered five of Binghamton’s 35 total rebounds. ‘They killed us on the offensive glass.’
Despite earning a nine-point victory, the Bearcats also took 13 fewer shots than the Warriors, while committing 17 turnovers.
‘You can’t turn that ball over 17 times,’ Macon said. ‘We have to come up with more shots and less turnovers. That team had [fewer] turnovers, and more shots. You have a better chance of winning the game if you get more shots. We have to crash the glass. The important thing is that we secure the ball off of the rebound, and we get up the court and give ourselves a chance at a good shot.’
Senior forward Mahamoud Jabbi and senior guard Chretien Lukusa each scored 13 points for the Bearcats, and senior forward Moussa Camara netted an additional eight.
Binghamton’s largest lead came with 2:22 left in the second half, when a Lukusa 3-pointer put the Bearcats up by 14.
A solid performance by ESU senior Mike Tobin kept the Warriors in the game. The forward earned a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Binghamton freshman Alex Ogundadegbe, who is the second-tallest player on the team but saw just three minutes of playing time, has spent a lot of time with starter Sutton, learning to utilize his size against opponents.
The Bearcats officially tip off the season on Saturday when they travel to Colgate University. A member of the Patriot league, the Raiders will provide the Bearcats with a new level of competition.
‘They’re a Division I team,’ said Macon. ‘They’re good, but we have to be better. We have to be better for 40 minutes. What we have to do during that game is rebound, [commit] no turnovers and put the ball in the net.’
Macon stressed Wright’s role in the offense in order to assure a competitive game. After taking only six shots in Wednesday’s exhibition match, the second-year coach expects more points out of his All-Conference forward.
‘I need him to score,’ said Macon. ‘I like the fact that he’s passing the ball; he’s one of our better passers. But I need him to take chances and put the ball in the basket. If you’re at the basket, shoot it, let Kyrie go rebound it. [Sutton] had 19, that’s what those guys are for. We need [Wright] to shoot the ball. He’s a very unselfish basketball player. He’d rather get you a shot than get him a shot. We need him to get a little more selfish.’
The Bearcats will look to open the season with a win for the third season in a row, but it won’t be easy. In the two teams’ last meeting, Colgate defeated the Bearcats by 18 points, earning a 73-55 win at the Events Center in 2007.
Even with off-the-court distractions finally put to rest, Macon’s priorities have not changed.
‘Focus directly on basketball,’ he said. ‘Staying focused on the prize, it’s one game at a time.’
Saturday’s tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Cotterell Court at Colgate University.