The Binghamton men’s basketball team had something to prove tonight.
Just three days removed from a 29-point loss to Colgate at the Events Center, head coach Tommy Dempsey hoped his Bearcats would display resiliency at Mount St. Mary’s.
They did just that, and thwarted the host’s valiant comeback effort for a 74-70 win in Emmitsburg, Md.
“When you have a young group that gets beat up like that at home and embarrassed, as a coach you’re always looking to see what your kids are made of,” Dempsey said. “I think tonight, more so than anything, the thing that I took the most from it was we were focused. We were energetic. We were together. We were ready to go, and we put on a good performance.”
That performance nearly did not translate into a tick in the win column, though.
The Bearcats (2-6), who snapped a four-game skid with the victory, had seen their 19-point lead all but evaporate in the last six minutes of the game. A 3-pointer by Mountaineer senior guard Julian Norfleet with 1.6 seconds left trimmed Binghamton’s advantage to 72-70.
But BU freshman point guard Yosef Yacob calmly buried a pair of clutch free throws to seal the deal.
“Out of every timeout on a full court inbounds, everything was drawn up to get the ball in his hands,” Dempsey said. “I figured he’d be our best guy to ice it at the line.”
Yacob went a perfect 9 for 9 from the charity stripe en route to scoring 18 points for the Bearcats, who shot 53 percent from the field and 6 of 10 from long range. He wasn’t perfect, though, as Mount St. Mary’s turned the freshman over nine times.
As a team, Binghamton coughed up the ball 23 times. Several of the turnovers came on careless mistakes of every variety. The Bearcats traveled. They stepped on the baseline. Even with a defender not in the vicinity, they lost the handle out of bounds.
“I thought where we did handle the press we normally got a good shot,” Dempsey said. “But there were times where we made some careless plays, so it’s tough.”
Through the first 33 minutes of the game, Binghamton’s turnovers didn’t catalyze fast break scoring opportunities for Mount St. Mary’s. But down the stretch, the Bearcats fed the ball to the Mountaineers in positions to score, most notably when Norfleet intercepted Yacob’s inbounds pass for a layup to cut the gap to seven with 1:33 left.
Dempsey called timeout with the hosts carrying all the momentum on a 17-5 spurt.
“I just wanted to make sure we got the inbounds right and that we got the ball on the floor,” he said. “If we turned over that inbounds right after that score, I thought that really could have been a big swing.”
The Bearcats successfully inbounded the ball, and as the shot clock wound down, Yacob found sophomore guard Jordan Reed for a backbreaking alley-oop.
The Mountaineers still wouldn’t surrender, but they couldn’t get over the hump.
“They played in the Northeast Conference Championship last year. It’s a heck of a win for us,” Dempsey said. “Despite their record, this is a team that’s going to win a lot of games.”
Freshman point guard Marlon Beck II led Binghamton with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting. He buried 4-of-6 treys, including the shot that put the Bearcats ahead, 59-40, with 6:50 remaining.
Reed finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. He shot 6 of 12 from the field and 5 of 5 from the foul line.
Coming off the bench, freshman forward Nick Madray scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the first double-double of his career.
For Mount St. Mary’s, Norfleet posted a game-high 26 points.
The Bearcats will return to game action on Saturday, when they’re scheduled to face No. 4 Syracuse. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.