With the season winding to an end, the Binghamton men’s basketball team is set to play the first of its final three games this Sunday at New Hampshire. The Wildcats (7-18, 3-10 America East) stand just above the Bearcats (3-23, 1-12 America East) at eighth place in the conference standings.
The teams last met on Jan. 26 in Binghamton, and the Wildcats cruised to a 63-45 victory. Despite home-court advantage and the largest Events Center crowd of the season, the Bearcats shot just 30 percent on 15-of-50 shooting (including 0-of-12 three-pointers) to New Hampshire’s 39.7 percent on 23-of-58 shooting. Binghamton also lagged behind in rebounds, collecting 37 to the Wildcats’ 44.
“I think we look at [Sunday’s game] as an opportunity to bounce back from the first time we played New Hampshire,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “Hopefully we can go up to New Hampshire on Sunday and have a much better performance and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Dempsey said that the Bearcats will still look to push the ball, but in order to do so successfully, rebounding and defense will also be of paramount importance.
“We want to make sure that we go up there and we rebound well and we do a good job of competing for 40 minutes,” he said. “We will look to push the ball in transition and try to help us put more points on the board.”
The Bearcats head into Sunday’s game on a seven-game losing skid, most recently extended by a 64-60 loss to Maine on Saturday night. In that game, senior guard Jimmy Gray brought the Bearcats to within one with a layup four minutes in before Maine sophomore forward Zarko Valjarevic launched a 16-2 Maine run that spanned the next eight minutes to give the Black Bears a 24-9 lead. The Bearcats tightened their defense in the second half, and freshman guard Jordan Reed scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the final 20 minutes, but Maine’s 13-point halftime lead proved to be insurmountable.
Despite sitting ahead of Binghamton in the standings, the Wildcats have struggled this season. The team is coming off of a pair of losses, though its last was a close one — a 49-44 defeat at the hands of fifth-place Hartford. Despite outscoring the Hawks (15-12, 8-6 America East) 32-31 in the second half, the Wildcats couldn’t overcome the six-point halftime deficit.
Notable players in the Hartford game included senior Chandler Rhoads, who posted a game-high 16 points, and junior Patrick Konan, who contributed 11 points and seven rebounds.
Rhoads played a catalyzing role for the Wildcats against Binghamton last time, scoring 15 points to go with five assists and five steals.
The Bearcats will have had nearly a week off when they enter the game on Sunday.
“We worked on a couple of different things defensively, and put in a couple of different plays that we think might be able to help us score,” Dempsey said. “[The break] gave us some time to hopefully grow a little bit as a team and to try to play our best basketball of the year in the last couple of weeks.”
Tipoff against UNH is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday at Lundholm Gymnasium.