Even after UMass Lowell turned a 13-point halftime deficit on its head, the Binghamton men’s basketball team had its chances to fend off the River Hawks’ comeback attempt and return to Vestal with a victory.
But the Bearcats (4-18, 1-8 America East) couldn’t capitalize, and dropped their seventh straight game, 62-55.
“It’s tough right now,” BU head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “It’s tough just because this was one where we had a good chance and didn’t get it done.”
With three minutes left and the River Hawks (6-14, 5-4) leading by two, BU sophomore guard Jordan Reed missed an uncontested layup. UML senior forward Antonio Bivins answered with a drive through the lane, granting the home team the benefit of a four-point swing.
Then, after senior guard Rayner Moquete cut the gap to two with 1:19 left, Binghamton couldn’t force a stop. UML senior guard Akeem Williams, who scored a game-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, nailed a 3-pointer, and the River Hawks would hold at least a two-possession lead the rest of the way.
Binghamton played almost exclusively man-to-man defense in the first half, frustrating a UMass Lowell squad that had spent nearly a week preparing primarily for the Bearcats’ 2-3 zone. But the River Hawks found their groove in the second half, and outscored Binghamton, 40-20, while shooting at a 50 percent clip.
“We just tried to make some adjustments the second time around the league, and also knowing they had a week to prepare for us, we thought they would be well prepared to go against the zone,” Dempsey said. “We tried to change things up and catch them a little off guard. I think it was successful in that regard but we just weren’t able to sustain stops in the second half.”
Binghamton’s offensive struggles in the second half (8-of-25 field-goal shooting) stemmed from their inability to score inside against UMass Lowell, one of the smallest teams in the entire country. Eight of the Bearcats’ first nine field-goal attempts of the game came from inside — senior forwards Alex Ogundadegbe and Roland Brown combined for 14 first-half points in the paint on 7-of-8 shooting — but Dempsey said his players struggled when the River Hawks adjusted defensively.
“I thought they packed the lane. They put two or three guys in there which made our high low action — some of our sets where we were trying to go inside — they made it much harder to get it in,” he said. “They put pressure on us to make shots, and we just went such a long stretch where we couldn’t make a jumpshot.”
The Bearcats’ failure to gain opportunities at the foul line exacerbated their woes from the field, creating a fatal mixture for offensive impotency. Reed, who shared a team-high 14 points with freshman guard Yosef Yacob, led Binghamton with four free-throw attempts. He converted just two, and the Bearcats finished 3-for-6 from the charity stripe while UMass Lowell shot 14-for-18.
“It’s hard to explain. We were very aggressive. We certainly threw it inside,” Dempsey said. “We just weren’t able to get it going in there. The calls just didn’t go our way, but that wasn’t what determined winning or losing.”
Freshman forward Nick Madray missed the game with a hip/groin injury. Dempsey said Madray fell hard in the team’s last practice before bussing to Lowell, so the team doctor has not had an opportunity to evaluate the freshman, who ranks third on Binghamton with 10.8 points per game.
With Madray’s status up in the air, the Bearcats have three days to regroup before hosting first-place Stony Brook, which fended off Hartford this afternoon.
Binghamton will enter Tuesday’s tilt as the sole resident of last place in the America East standings, trailing seventh- and eighth-place occupants UMBC and Maine by two games.
Tipoff against the Seawolves (16-7, 8-1 AE) is set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 4 at the Events Center.