Dylan Cormier scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half, and Loyola Maryland closed on a 14-4 run to defeat the Binghamton men’s basketball team, 79-74, in the season opener at the Events Center on Friday night.
A 3-pointer by freshman point guard Yosef Yacob put the Bearcats (0-1) ahead, 70-65, with 5:05 to play, but a pair of turnovers by the rookie in the next two minutes sparked the Greyhounds’ spurt.
Freshman forward Nick Madray, who scored 22 points and hit three treys, said the team collectively made poor decisions down the stretch.
“I think we were rushing it too much,” he said. “We should have stayed poised. We didn’t execute, but we’ll try to do it next game.”
Sophomore guard Jordan Reed, who posted a team-high 23 points and nine rebounds, fouled out with 3:33 to play as he bumped Cormier on a drive. Cormier, who had sunk a crucial 3-pointer on Loyola’s previous possession, tied the game at the line.
He would convert a layup off a steal and sink three more foul shots down the stretch.
“Cormier’s as good of a player as we’ll play all year,” BU head coach Tommy Dempsey said.
Trailing 77-74 with 31 seconds left and Reed on the bench, the Bearcats tried to extend the game with a 2-pointer out of a timeout. The play developed slowly, however, forcing redshirt junior guard Rob Mansell to launch a 3-pointer with seven seconds left.
He missed, and Loyola redshirt junior guard Denzel Brito grabbed the rebound and iced the game with a pair of free throws.
“I was just frustrated I couldn’t go out there and help my team,” Reed said. “But my coaches were telling me I still had a role to play, just cheer my teammates on. And that’s what I tried to do, but we came up short.”
Dempsey said the referees, who whistled Reed for his last two fouls in a 1:06 stretch, upset him.
“My best player was sitting next to me for the last four minutes of the game, and [Cormier] was out there playing aggressive as well,” he said. “You don’t see your best player get his 4th and 5th blown that quickly on those kind of calls so I was upset about that.”
The Bearcats opened with a 17-8 run in the first 6:26 of play, as Madray and Reed combined for 12 early points. Characterized as a shooter first and a conventional big man second, Madray buried a 3-pointer but also beat his man off the dribble for a layup during the stretch.
Madray, who scored just three points on 1-of-6 shooting in the exhibition game against Bloomsburg, said getting hot early helped his confidence.
“My first 3-pointer went in so I think that set the tone, but it was also I was playing more aggressive,” he said. “That was really the key. The coaches were telling me to play aggressive and play hard.”
The Greyhounds (1-0) clawed back and took a 34-28 lead with 3:11 left in the half, but Reed and freshman point guard Marlon Beck combined for eight points in the last 2:01 to bring their team within 37-36 at the break.
Led by Reed and Madray, the Bearcats held a 53-47 lead with 14:11 to play. But Cormier and Jones carried the Greyhounds and knotted the score at 64 before a 5-1 Binghamton spurt opened the 70-65 gap with 5:05 left.
The Bearcats shot just 39.1 percent from the floor to Loyola’s 50 percent. And whereas Binghamton left 21 points at the line against Bloomsburg, the Bearcats shot 93.8 percent to the Greyhound’s 69 percent tonight.
With the freshmen leading the way, Binghamton converted 9-of-20 3-pointers. But Beck and Yacob also combined for nine turnovers in their debuts.
“I thought they played well,” Dempsey said of his point guards. “[Loyola has] a couple of ball-hawks out there in [junior guard R.J.] Williams and Cormier that are veteran guards, and at times we got a little loose with the ball here and there.”
The Bearcats don’t have much time to mull over this loss, as they depart for Brown on Saturday morning for a Sunday matinee.
Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, R.I.