Dempsey hopes challenging week of practice pays off at Buffalo

Practice does not make perfect, but it can have a tremendous impact on how a team plays.

A lackluster week of practices, according to Tommy Dempsey, preceded the Binghamton men’s basketball team’s Dec. 14 bout with Monmouth. The hosting Hawks routed the Bearcats (2-8), 74-46, and Dempsey said afterwards that he hoped his players would respond by practicing with fervor in the days leading up to Monday’s tilt with Buffalo.

His team did just that.

“I think we had a great week,” the second-year head coach of BU said. “We’ve really challenged them every day, and I think we competed really hard in practice this week. I feel good about the way that the team responded to the poor performance [at Monmouth].”

But a few key members of Binghamton’s backcourt were limited in practice this week, and their injuries will sideline them against the Bulls (4-4), who fell to Manhattan on Saturday.

Senior Rayner Moquete had played through a fractured finger on his left hand “for a while,” according to Dempsey, but the coaching staff wants the Dominican Republic native to be healthy for the start of conference play in two weeks.

Redshirt junior Rob Mansell, who sat out the 2012-13 season with a knee injury, has not practiced since Binghamton’s win over Mount St. Mary’s because of a sprain of the same knee.

And freshman Yosef Yacob will post his first DNP, as a groin that has nagged him for a few weeks will keep him out of the lineup. Of the three injured players, Yacob has been the most important to Binghamton, with averages of 9.7 points and 2.4 assists per game. He has been the team’s primary point guard.

In his absence, freshman Marlon Beck will handle floor general duties, and freshman walk-on Matt Smith will likely see his first significant playing time.

Because of the team’s lack of depth and the tendency of freshman forwards Nick Madray and Magnus Richards to get into early foul trouble, the Bearcats will likely play a lot of zone against Buffalo, a team comprised of athletic guards and a 6-foot-7 bull in senior forward Javon McCrea.

“It was never really my goal to play as much zone as we are,” Dempsey said, “but we’re trying to use it to protect us a little bit from foul trouble and protect us a little from our lack of depth, especially on the inside.”

The Bulls’ guards are quick, and they occasionally broke down Manhattan’s matchup zone off the dribble. But McCrea is the player most likely to cause problems for Binghamton, which cannot match the forward’s strength inside—the Barclays Center basket stanchion is probably still shaking after a nasty one-handed McCrea dunk on Saturday.

Even if McCrea leads Buffalo past Binghamton, Dempsey said he hopes his team’s effort in practice will lead to a solid performance.

“I’m trying to hold them accountable to each performance,” he said. “Until we get back to America East play—even in these next three games—you’d love to win them all, but the thing I’m most focused on is how we perform, how hard we play.”

Tipoff is set for noon at Alumni Arena in Buffalo.