After exchanging the lead 14 times against UMBC, the Binghamton men’s basketball team trailed for the duration of Saturday night’s 79-46 loss to Albany at SEFCU Arena.
Albany redshirt freshman guard Peter Hooley scored the game’s first points, and the Great Danes (17-7, 6-4 America East) held a 16-10 advantage at the 11:48 mark. But the Bearcats (3-19, 1-8 America East) would score just four more points before the break, as Albany started in on compiling a 40-14 halftime lead.
Albany senior guard Jacob Iati nearly outscored Binghamton with 13 first-half points. When the Bearcats hosted the Great Danes on Jan. 7, Iati didn’t score in the first half and finished with just three points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Because the Bearcats struggled to make baskets, they had trouble setting up their defense, which aided Iati and Albany’s other sharpshooters.
“They scored out of some broken situations because we couldn’t score,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “They were out in transition, and then you have a harder time locking onto the guys you have to lock onto.”
Iati opened the second half with a three, and though he wouldn’t score the rest of the way, Great Dane senior guard Mike Black and sophomore Jayson Guerrier combined to score 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the game’s final 20 minutes. As a team, Albany posted a 57.1 percent mark from the floor in the second half.
Dempsey altered Binghamton’s defensive focus this time around, as Albany’s frontcourt dominated on Jan. 7. With the Bearcats applying more attention to the paint, the Great Danes shot 11-of-23 from deep, led by Iati (4-of-6) and Guerrier (5-of-7).
Binghamton junior transfer Brian Freeman and freshman guard Jordan Reed led the Bearcats with 14 points and two dunks apiece while senior guard Jimmy Gray added 12 points and three assists. Freeman, limited by foul trouble against UMBC, played 30 minutes for the first time as a Bearcat. The junior has averaged 10.3 points over his last three games.
“I think [Freeman’s] really starting to feel more comfortable on the court, off the court,” Dempsey said. “He’s just doing a good job right now, and that’s going to be crucial for us if we’re going to be competitive down the stretch.”
Reed, on the other hand, earned America East Rookie of the Week honors for the fourth time this season after averaging 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in Binghamton’s last two games. Though Reed still occasionally forces shots, he has been more efficient recently, shooting 47.9 percent in his past five outings.
“The game’s slowing down to him a little bit,” Dempsey said. “He takes some bad shots and forces some things at times out of necessity, but we need him to shoot. We need him to score.”
As a team, the Bearcats shot 2-of-12 from behind the arc. They have not posted a single-game three-point percentage higher than 30.8 percent in their last seven contests.
“They just need to see the ball go in,” Dempsey said. “We’re going to do some things offensively to try to help, to try to get some better shots. But truth be told, our kids need to see the ball go through the basket.”
Perhaps Binghamton will find its touch Wednesday night when they are scheduled to host Hartford. In their conference opener on Jan. 2, the Bearcats shot 52.9 percent from deep against the Hawks (12-10, 5-4 AE). But despite Binghamton’s long range accuracy, Hartford sophomore forward Mark Nwakamma helped the Hawks to a 71-68 win.
“Coming into the league with a new set of eyes, [Nwakamma’s] one of the kids who has impressed me the most,” Dempsey said. “You can probably make an argument for him being a top-two, top-three talent in the league.”
ESPN3 is set to broadcast the game, which is scheduled to tipoff at 7 p.m at the Events Center.