There’s still work to do, but the Binghamton University men’s basketball team saw improvement over the weekend.
The Bearcats (0-2) fell to Loyola University Maryland on Friday, 71-45, before losing at home to Brown University on Sunday afternoon, 58-49. But first-year head coach Tommy Dempsey said he noticed a difference on Sunday.
“We certainly have a lot to do,” he said. “We have a long way to go, but we know that. It’s all about our process, and I thought our process took a step forward [against Brown].”
Loyola (1-1), who finished first in the MAAC preseason poll, represented one of the more formidable opponents on Binghamton’s schedule this year.
The Greyhounds’ dominance down low, coupled with Binghamton’s inefficient shooting, left the Bearcats in a tight spot early. After Binghamton junior forward Roland Brown scored the game’s first basket, the Greyhounds proceeded to go on a 19-0 run. But with 9:27 left in the first half, the Bearcats finally started to get something going, stringing together a 12-7 run to get within 12 points.
The Greyhounds would head into the locker room with a 39-22 lead after an 8-0 run in the final 2:14 of the half, and a 16-3 surge early in the second half put the game on ice.
Senior guard Jimmy Gray had 14 points, the only Bearcat to reach double figures. Junior forward Roland Brown chipped in with eight points while junior guard K.J. Brown added a career-high nine points off the bench.
BU was outrebounded 35-21 in the contest.
On Sunday afternoon, the Bearcats looked to bounce back against Brown (1-0) in their home opener at the Events Center.
Binghamton found itself in a hole early again as Brown jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game. The Bearcats would trail most of the first half, staying within striking distance until senior forward Taylor Johnston hit back-to-back three-pointers in a 25-second span to tie the score at 25-25 heading into halftime.
“We were just running the offense smoothly, and luckily I was getting to the right spot and my teammates were finding me,” Johnston said. “So I was just shooting. I had a lot of good looks and I took advantage.”
The Bearcats picked up right where they left off coming out of the break, with Gray and Johnston each hitting a three-pointer to give Binghamton a 31-25 lead to start the second.
A 15-3 run by the Bears, however, provided Brown with a 46-38 lead with 9:37 left to play. Junior guard Rayner Moquete drained a three with 6:52 left to bring the Bearcats to within three, 51-48, but from there, Binghamton went cold from the field, failing to convert on timely buckets down the stretch as the team missed its final field goal attempts.
Johnston and Moquete each had 14 points to lead the Bearcats.
“I thought we played scared on Friday night [against Loyola] to be honest with you,” Dempsey said. “And I thought we played hard and good college basketball [against Brown]. We’re not going to light you up for 70, but we are playing good basketball.”
With 27 attempts from downtown and 49 total field goal attempts, Binghamton took more three-pointers than shots from inside the arc. This could prove to be a theme for the Bearcats this season as getting good looks down low will be a challenge for an undersized team.
“If we are wide open, we have to take the shot, because that’s what the defense is giving us,” Moquete said.
Dempsey said he wasn’t necessarily comfortable with the number of three-point shots but added that a lot of it has to do with what the defense gives you.
“I think it’s a little bit personal driven,” he said. “I think it’s a little bit style driven … We don’t have a lot of break-you-down guards, so we’re trying to maximize our strengths. And I think for us to score we’re going to have to make a lot of threes based on our personnel right now.”
The key for this team, according to Dempsey, is getting it together down the stretch and scrapping out a few wins. Wins will lead to more wins, as winning is contagious, the first-year coach said.
“We have to learn how to win. What we need is a taste of winning,” Dempsey said. “We need a couple of wins. I think we need a couple of games where we walk out of the end of some hard fought games with wins, and if we’re going to change the culture sooner then later we’re going to have to find wins. I think we have a bunch of games on our schedule that are going to be very similar to today. And we’re going to have to find a way to win some.”
The Bearcats’ next test is set to take place Wednesday at Navy. The teams are scheduled to face off at 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall.