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Hartford’s late putback downs men’s basketball

Almost everyone in the Events Center tonight thought Wes Cole’s 3-pointer with six seconds left would fall through the bottom of the net — everyone except Taylor Dyson.

Dyson found a seam through the Binghamton men’s basketball team’s zone and crashed the glass. Cole, who had converted eight of his first 17 3-point attempts, missed, and Dyson leapt, fortuitously met the ball off a carom and tipped it in to hand Hartford a 56-54 win over the Bearcats (4-15, 1-5 America East).

“The one thing that just happens all the time, the shot goes up and you feel like that’s the shot that’s going to win the game and you get caught watching it,” BU head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “That kid ran up our back and made a [play].”

The game-winner counted as just one of Dyson’s three converted field goals. He finished with seven points and three rebounds, while Cole carried Hartford’s offense on a night when neither team could sustain any rhythm with the ball.

Cole, fresh off a career-high 30 points on a program-record 10-of-20 3-point shooting, found openings against Binghamton’s zone and in transition, and torched the Bearcats for a game-high 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting — all treys.

Before Binghamton could settle into the zone, Cole buried 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to give his team a 49-44 advantage with 6:03 left in the game. The Bearcats would never regain the lead, which they had held the majority of the game.

“I feel like we did good [on defense], except for about a two- or three-minute stretch where [Cole] got off a little bit,” freshman guard Yosef Yacob said. “But up until that point, I thought we did a really good job of taking that away from them.”

The Hawks (10-11, 4-2 AE) shot 10 for 28 from deep — compared to 9 for 18 from within the arc. They launched 3-pointers early and often, but Binghamton’s aggressive 2-3 zone forced them to work hard and whip the ball around the perimeter to find openings.

With a trap at the short corner implemented to limit all-conference junior forward Mark Nwakamma, Binghamton forced treacherous passes, deflecting and intercepting several. The Bearcats forced 15 turnovers, which they converted for 17 points, and afforded Nwakamma just seven points on 2-of-5 shooting.

While Binghamton’s defensive intensity remained relatively constant throughout the game, the offense couldn’t sustain its torrid start. The Bearcats buried eight of their first nine shots, lighting up the scoreboard for 20 points in the opening 6:36, but what blossomed into a 10-point lead quickly evaporated to a 28-27 advantage at the break.

By the game’s final buzzer, Binghamton’s field goal percentage had dipped to 40 percent.

Neither team led by more than six points in the second half, and with 1:08 left on the clock, sophomore guard Karon Waller corralled his 11th rebound, a career-high, granting Binghamton possession with the score knotted at 54.

Dempsey called timeout with seven seconds left on the shot clock, as the Bearcats couldn’t break down Hartford’s 1-3-1 zone. The Hawks deflected a pass intended for freshman forward Nick Madray, scratching the drawn-up play and leaving Waller for a heave that missed as the shot clock expired.

“We only had seven seconds, so we didn’t have a lot of time for that to happen,” Dempsey said. “So once they deflected the ball, that disrupted the play.”

Hartford called timeout on the ensuing possession, and head coach John Gallagher designed a play to free Cole for a 3-pointer on the right wing. The shot missed, but Dyson cleaned up the glass and dealt Binghamton a loss Dempsey would describe as “bitter, bitter, bitter.”

But while the Bearcats couldn’t keep pace with sixth-place New Hampshire — which upset Albany tonight — Dempsey drew a positive from Binghamton’s second straight narrow defeat against a league foe that could challenge Stony Brook and Vermont for the conference title. The Bearcats also lost to fourth-place Albany, 66-60, on Monday night — without sophomore guard Jordan Reed, who returned from his one-game suspension tonight and posted eight points and four boards.

“I hope that in the last couple of days,” Dempsey said, “just playing against the third and fourth place teams in the league and taking them to the last possession — even though we lost both games — gives us some confidence that we can play in the middle of the pack and climb the standings.”