Men’s basketball can’t overcome poor shooting night against UMass Lowell

For the fourth time this season, the Binghamton men’s basketball team failed to string together consecutive wins.

UMass Lowell, in its first Division I season, visited the Events Center today and outplayed and out-shot the Bearcats (4-12, 1-2 America East) en route to a 71-59 victory.

“Lowell came in here, and they played really hard. Give them credit,” BU head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “They came in here, they smelled a win and they got off to a good start and they kept fighting.”

Fewer than 48 hours after scorching the nets against New Hampshire, Binghamton shot 38.2 percent from the field and a dreadful 4 for 22 (18.2 percent) from long range.

“I think we were getting good shots,” said freshman guard Yosef Yacob, who scored a career-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting.  “They just weren’t going down.”

Dempsey said some of his players allowed their offensive struggles to dictate their effort on the defensive end, where Binghamton allowed Lowell to shoot 50 percent and score at a rate of 126.6 points per 100 possessions. He said his young team must mature in that regard.

“Tonight was a night where we needed our defense to carry us to a win because we weren’t making shots, and we can’t be defined by shot-making,” Dempsey said. “Good programs, tough teams win when they don’t have their best stuff.”

Though the Bearcats couldn’t locate the basket all day, they held a 39-33 lead with 13:36 left. But Lowell quickly stole the momentum with a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game and spark a 20-0 run that spanned five minutes.

Lowell senior guard Akeem Williams, who posted game-highs of 23 points and nine assists to go with seven rebounds, scored six points and dished out four dimes during the stretch.

“College basketball, a lot of times, is a game of who’s feeling good, the ebb and flow of a game,” Dempsey said. “They were feeling good about themselves during a stretch where we were feeling a little sorry for ourselves and weren’t competing at the level we needed to.”

But the Bearcats, who trailed by as many as 16 points with 6:50 left, cut the gap to seven when Yacob nailed a 3-pointer with 3:32 on the clock.

They locked down on the ensuing defensive possession, pushing Williams to just a few feet in front of the halfcourt line as the shot clock wound down. As the senior dribbled toward the 3-point line, freshman guard Marlon Beck II committed a foul on the ball just moments before the shot clock would have expired.

With Binghamton over the foul limit, Williams went to the charity stripe and buried a pair of free throws.

“That was deflating. That was tough,” Dempsey said. “We had a little bit of momentum on our side, and we had a great defensive possession. The whistle deflates the entire momentum in the gym…That kind of iced it.”

The Bearcats have been anything but the emblem of consistency this season, and freshman forward Nick Madray has struggled in that regard, perhaps, more than anyone. Sometimes, Madray cannot miss, like Thursday night when he scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. But he couldn’t find any rhythm today, and scored zero points on 0-of-6 shooting.

“He just didn’t get it going,” Dempsey said. “I thought he got similar shots [on Thursday], but nothing went in…That happens. You’ve got to play through that.”

The loss drops Binghamton into a sixth-place tie with UMBC and Maine as the Bearcats enter their most daunting stretch of America East play. Wednesday’s game at Stony Brook opens a four-game slate in which the Bearcats also visit Albany and Vermont and host Hartford.