Though head coach Tommy Dempsey’s newly implemented up-tempo offensive style paid dividends early on, it ultimately led to the demise of the Binghamton men’s basketball team on Wednesday night. The Bearcats (3-20, 1-9 America East) could not sustain the run-and-gun style of play through the second half and fell to Hartford, 76-62, at the Events Center.
After dropping their last three games and failing to reach the 60-point mark in each of their previous seven contests, the Bearcats came out of the gates aggressively on Wednesday and scored 24 points in the first 10 minutes of action against the Hawks (13-10, 6-4 America East).
“I just thought we needed a shot in the arm,” Dempsey said. “Not only offensively, just with our style in general. We’ve been trying to slow the games down in an effort to stay in games, but we just aren’t scoring … I thought the quicker tempo might give us a chance to put the ball in the basket.”
BU junior forward Brian Freeman, who has now played 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games, scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half to lead the Bearcats into halftime down by just a basket, 38-36.
The fast-paced approach continued to work at the beginning of the second half, as Binghamton remained resilient in keeping up with the Hawks. Senior forward Taylor Johnston converted a layup and drained consecutive 3-pointers to give BU its first eight points of the period.
But with the score knotted at 46 and 16:02 left to play, Hartford went on a decisive 17-4 run as fatigue began to set in for the Bearcats.
“We had a stretch in the second half where we struggled to score for awhile,” Dempsey said. “It was a little bit of a different pace for us tonight, and I didn’t think we were able to sustain it for 40 minutes.”
Binghamton was plagued by 16 turnovers on the night, but lost possessions are to be expected in a hurry-up style offense. What hurt the Bearcats the most was a poor shooting performance in the second half. BU netted only 8-of-22 shots from the field in the second half, compared to a 14-of-27 clip in the first. Freshman guard Jordan Reed attributed it to a decline in energy.
“When we turned the ball over we didn’t get back,” he said. “That comes along with that style of play, and I just think we need a little bit more energy.”
Despite the loss, Reed put together another well-rounded game with 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
“It just seemed like our energy dipped, and that’s when they started to go on their scoring run, and then we were just overwhelmed,” he said.
Dempsey, who has utilized the high-tempo offense throughout his career, said he decided to go back to his “roots” to try and jump-start his team’s offense.
“It’s something you have to be very committed to,” Dempsey said. “It’s something you have to do every day. And we’ve [only] done it for a couple of days, so I think we were fatigued.”
Binghamton senior guard Jimmy Gray, who shot 7-of-8 from the field to match a career-high 24 points in BU’s last matchup against Hartford on Jan. 2, converted only one of his 11 shots on Wednesday and committed nine turnovers. With 2:24 left in the first half, Gray briefly left the court with back spasms but returned shortly thereafter.
“He’s been struggling with some back issues all year,” Dempsey said. “Some days it’s worse than others. It was really tight today … I know he had a rough night, but he knows we need him. I think a lot of guys would have taken tonight off, but that’s just not the way he’s wired.”
Hartford sophomore forward Mark Nwakamma posted a game-high 22 points, while graduate student and forward John Peterson netted a season-high 16.
The Bearcats will look to rebound on Saturday when they are set to host Boston University. The Terriers have won four of their last five games, including a 79-72 victory against Maine last Tuesday.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Events Center.