The Binghamton University men’s basketball team inaugurated its Tommy Dempsey coaching era with a rocky 63-46 exhibition win over Division III Susquehanna University on Saturday.
The slow first half concluded with the Bearcats gaining a mere five-point advantage over the Crusaders at 28-23, but Binghamton picked up its level of play in the second half, jumping to a 48-30 lead with 11:59 left and subsequently refusing Susquehanna to fare any closer than 15 points.
The Bearcats posted a solid defensive effort, forcing 24 turnovers and accumulating nine steals and two blocks. Though a bit slower offensively, they managed to sink 12 of 29 three-pointers and 22 of 53 shots overall.
Dempsey, who was hired as Binghamton’s head coach last May, said that he thought the team could pull some positives from the exhibition game.
“Susquehanna is a team who historically scores a lot of points,” he said. “They’re very well-coached offensively and normally are a team that scores 75 points a game, so I thought our defense was really good.”
Binghamton senior guard Mike Horn dominated the Bearcats’ defensive sphere, totalling seven rebounds and two steals, as well as playing a large role in forcing Susquehanna’s turnovers.
Though the Bearcats appeared sloppy at times, Dempsey didn’t seem preoccupied with the mistakes that inevitably accompany a team’s preliminary stages.
“It takes time to put something together when you’re coming in and you have mostly new players and all new coaches,” he said. “We’re going to be sloppy at times, and we’re going to turn over the ball at times as we get a feel for each other. Our goal is that, as time goes on, we get better and better at taking care of the ball. But it’s something that I know will be a problem early on until we’re comfortable with one another.”
Dempsey was also realistic about the team’s offensive sore spots. He mentioned he is known as an offensive-minded coach and that his teams have historically been better known for offense than defense.
“We’re not clicking on all cylinders yet offensively; we haven’t spent the time at that end of the floor,” Dempsey said. “I think we’ll be a very good offensive team in time, but right now, as we’re building our foundation in a new program, we’re going to build it on defense and toughness.”
Senior guard Jimmy Gray, who had 13 points and a game-high seven assists, said that although this year’s team is different than last year’s, he felt comfortable on the court in Saturday’s exhibition.
“The energy was there, with the staff as well as with the team,” he said. “The guys had a good chemistry on the court and got good vibes coming off the coaches.”
Although all 11 eligible Binghamton players got time on the floor, Gray, junior guard Rayner Moquete, Horn, senior forward Taylor Johnston, freshman guard Karon Waller and junior forward Roland Brown logged the most minutes.
“This is still a time of the year where everybody needs a chance,” Dempsey said. “I need to evaluate players in game situations. Practice is great, but there’s nothing like the games. It takes time to find the right mix, especially because we have no history together.”
Saturday’s standouts included Moquete, who shot 6-of-9 from the floor and 4-of-6 on three-pointers to lead the team with 17 points, and Johnston, who tallied a team-high three steals and shot 3-of-4 both from the floor and the three-point line.
With about six minutes left in the game, Moquete got tangled up with a Crusader and fell. He subbed out and was seen with ice on his left ankle. Dempsey said that the decision to pull Moquete was precautionary and he didn’t anticipate the injury being significant.
Looking forward, Dempsey seemed confident that the team could build on the tactics it began to establish this game to improve throughout the season.
“We have the inside presence, we have the shooters spreading the court and we try to play very unselfishly,” he said. “The 15 assists was a positive, the 20 turnovers a negative, so back to work tomorrow.”
The Bearcats are set to open their season on Friday at Loyola University Maryland. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Reitz Arena.