The Binghamton University men’s basketball team took one step further toward shedding the memory of last year’s record-setting losing streak with its first win of the season this Sunday against formerly undefeated St. Peter’s College. After suffering a loss to Army on Friday, the Bearcats were able to build upon the experience and garner enough energy and momentum to push past St. Peter’s, 62-54.
On Friday, the Bearcats (1-4) bounced back from a 56-40 deficit against Army (2-1) with a 12-5 run that brought BU within nine with 9:53 left. But with two minutes remaining, Binghamton found itself down by 11. BU junior forward Roland Brown closed the gap with a three-point play to bring the score to 78-70, but the Bearcats were ultimately unable to stop the Black Knights, who won 85-76.
Freshman guard Jordan Reed had a notable performance, notching 18 points and eight rebounds to lead the team. Junior guard Rayner Moquete also had a strong presence, burying three-pointers that closed the gap between the Bearcats and the Black Knights to only nine points on two different occasions. Senior guard Jimmy Gray and senior forward Taylor Johnston each contributed 12 points. The Bearcats shot over 50 percent, but failed to secure enough opportunities for the win.
“I think we have to get our transition game in gear a little bit to open up some easier scoring opportunities,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said following Sunday’s game. “We’re getting better defensively and I think our energy level was really high on Friday, I think it was really high today and that’s something we need to go on.”
Sunday’s game was close from start to finish. With the teams bouncing back and forth on the board, the game featured 14 ties and as many lead changes. For most of the afternoon, the largest lead was only four points, but after Binghamton reached a six-point lead with 4:03 left, the Peacocks (3-1) wouldn’t recover. The Bearcats maintained their poise and kept their energy high to put away St. Peter’s.
“I don’t typically overreact to wins or losses, but I’d be lying if I said that that first win isn’t really important,” Dempsey said. “Just for this group, after everything that they’ve been through, the last thing that I wanted was a losing streak that lingered.”
The team’s win can be at least partially attributed to BU’s success from inside the three-point line, converting on 18-of-39 shots from there while shooting only 3-for-10 from beyond the arc. The Bearcats, who snatched 46 rebounds to the Peacocks’ 35, committed 15 turnovers compared to St. Peter’s eight.
Gray, who had six points and tallied a team-high four assists, credited the win to the team’s unity.
“I think the big difference was that guys collectively are coming together,” Gray said. “We’re having guys being able to trust each other, we’re getting more comfortable on offense, defensively we’re getting better. Every game, every practice, that’s our concentration right now.”
Reed continued his impressive play, shattering Binghamton’s single-game rebound record and earning America East Rookie of the Week honors. He secured his second double-double on Sunday, with 17 points and 18 boards, both team-highs once again, and threw down five dunks. Over his first three games, he has averaged 16.7 points and 12.3 rebounds.
“He has a chance to be really special; you’d have to be blind not to see that,” Dempsey said. “To just be three games in and to have the impact that he’s had, he’s going to be a handful. He’s only going to get better and better because he’s a relentless worker — he loves the game.”
Reed said that crashing the boards is the way he plays, but that while some of his rebounding efforts are natural, he gives credit to his coaches.
“They’re always telling me to get rebounds because sometimes we play with more guards — four guards and one big guy — so they tell me to get in and scrap, and that’s what I did for my team,” he said.
Senior forward Javon Ralling returned on Sunday following his four-game suspension and shot 2-for-4 from the floor and grabbed four rebounds. Freshman guard Karon Waller matched Ralling’s stats, but Dempsey said that their presence was hidden in the numbers, and that their energy kept the team alive.
“We did things that winning basketball teams do,” Dempsey said. “We were definitely more energetic. We were definitely the tougher team, and that was a real [key to the win].”
Johnston sat out of Sunday’s game with a sprained ankle, which Dempsey said is still being evaluated. He predicted the forward could be out for anywhere from one and three weeks.
Dempsey said he just hopes that with this win, the team can cast aside last year’s shadow and look forward.
“We’ll be talking about this basketball team, and this coaching staff, and this group, and not talking about everything that’s gone on here in the past,” he said.
The Bearcats will look to keep things rolling on Saturday, when they are scheduled to host Marywood University at the Events Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.