In the Tommy Dempsey era, the Binghamton men’s basketball team has relied heavily on Jordan Reed. The Bearcats had never won a game in which the sophomore guard scored fewer than 16 points and had never come closer than 16 when he scored 10 or fewer.
But in a display of growth on Thursday night, Binghamton (4-11, 1-1 America East) trounced New Hampshire, 67-38, with Reed scoring just 10 points and grabbing four rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
The Bearcats led by as many as 35 points.
“We’d been so reliant on him in our two years here. Every night we’d say, ‘Oh, if Jordan doesn’t play well, we don’t play well,’” Dempsey said. “There were some stretches tonight where we played really well when he wasn’t in the game.”
Eight Bearcats scored at least two points in Binghamton’s second straight home win, and a trio of freshmen carried the bulk of the offensive load with Reed taking a backseat.
Forward Nick Madray scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting (4-of-4 3-point), while guard Yosef Yacob dished out a career-high 12 assists to go with eight points. Fueled by a 3-of-5 clip from long range, guard Marlon Beck scored 11 points.
“Not that we did it without [Reed], but I was able to find him a lot of rest with a short turnaround [on Saturday against UMass Lowell],” Dempsey said. “The minutes he was out of the game, the kids played very well. That was a real bright spot.”
Without Madray on the floor, Binghamton opened up a 6-2 lead. Then the freshman came off the bench and nailed the first three shots he attempted as the Bearcats progressed towards a 20-point halftime lead.
“When he gets it going, you never think one’s not going in. He has that kind of touch,” Dempsey said. “Everything with Nick is normally about his confidence, and when he splashes a couple in and he gets the confidence up, I’m just waiting for him to get the next one. We try to do everything we can to get him in a position to get the next shot. I don’t know if he hit the rim [tonight]—it certainly didn’t feel like it.”
Madray had scored in double figures just once in his last four games, crediting a newfound level of energy as the difference. He hadn’t eclipsed the 20-point mark since he scored a career-high 23 points in Binghamton’s Nov. 13 bout with Cornell.
“The past few games I wasn’t playing with energy, and it doesn’t feel too good when you don’t give it your all,” he said. “So today I really wanted to come out and play my hardest, and it turned out to be a great game.”
Many of Madray’s shots wouldn’t have materialized without the court vision of Yacob, who assisted six of the forward’s eight made field goals. In his second game back after missing three contests with a groin injury, Yacob was the key to Binghamton’s offense, which thrived both in transition and in the half court en route to a 53.2 percent clip from the field.
“In this game we got a lot of stops, and that made it really easy for us to push it and find easy shots for each other,” Yacob said. “When you play defense and you push the ball, it makes the game a lot easier for all of us.”
The Bearcats converted 19 points off New Hampshire’s 16 turnovers, limited the Wildcats (2-13, 0-2 AE) to 11-of-45 shooting (24.4 percent) from the field and out-rebounded the opposition by eight.
“They’re better than they played tonight,” Dempsey said of the Wildcats, “but I’d like to think we had something to do with that.”
Not even the return of Chris Pelcher could help New Hampshire. The senior center, who was averaging 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game before missing eight consecutive tilts with a leg injury, was a non-factor in 11 first-half minutes. He did not play at all in the second half.
Dempsey said the coaching staff did not expect Pelcher to play.
“I saw him warming up, and I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ because I know he’s a big factor and we’ve struggled at times with big strong post players,” Dempsey said.
But Pelcher couldn’t keep pace with Binghamton in transition, and in New Hampshire’s half-court offense, his teammates rarely attempted to feed him in the post.
“It takes a while to get your legs back and get your timing back,” Dempsey said.
With Pelcher watching the second half from the bench, the Bearcats continued to guard senior forward Patrick Konan and senior guard Jordon Bronner aggressively, forcing other Wildcats to score. Few could answer the bell, and with 11:40 left, Binghamton had extended its 33-13 halftime lead to 56-21.
The Wildcats had applied full-court pressure since the beginning of the second half, but Binghamton broke it consistently enough to feel confident in its ability to maintain the lead.
“During practice we worked on our press break a lot and how to be confident with the ball when they were trying to pressure us,” Yacob said. “Me and Marlon were working on how to play off each other in the press, and that’s the good thing about having two point guards in the system.”
With the win, the Bearcats have won more regular season games against Division I opponents this season than they did in the last two seasons combined.
“I think we’re showing what we can do here, even though it’s our first year here,” Yacob said. “But we just want to build off that and not really look towards that last year as a way to compare ourselves but more so just to have our identity.”
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