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Men’s basketball keeps pace with first-place Stony Brook but falls late

The Binghamton men’s basketball team took to the Events Center hardwood Tuesday night energized and motivated, ready to set an early tone against Stony Brook. But the Bearcats (4-19, 1-9 America East) have shown an ability to start fast before, only to surrender an insurmountable, momentum-squashing run to their opponent shortly thereafter.

That wasn’t the case tonight.

Fueled by a season-high crowd of 4,635 and an ESPN3 audience, the last-place Bearcats went punch-for-punch with the first-place Seawolves (17-7, 9-1 AE), but it was Stony Brook’s 8-2 run in the final 1:45 that dealt Binghamton a 58-53 loss.

“Just very proud of my team. I feel bad for these guys because they spilled their guts out there tonight and thought they deserved to win,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “I told these guys that if we were going to have a chance to win tonight, we had to fight for every inch of the court and that’s exactly what we did.”

The Bearcats, catalyzed by a combined 11 points from sophomore forward Jordan Reed and freshman guard Marlon Beck II, held a 17-12 advantage through the opening eight minutes of play. Where Binghamton’s level of play would normally dip, it was maintained tonight — over the next nine minutes, BU would extend its lead to 22-13 after a 3-pointer by Reed and a jumper by senior guard Raynor Moquete.

Stony Brook would slice BU’s lead to 23-18 at halftime after not allowing a Binghamton field goal in the final 3:18 of the first.

Stony Brook finally began to flaunt its superior experience and skill in the second half when it went on a 12-0 run in a span of 5:39 to grab a 32-28 lead. But after Dempsey elected to take a timeout to regroup his team, Reed drove hard to the basket and converted a conventional 3-point play to end BU’s scoring drought.

“Let’s not let this last. We’ve all seen that throughout the year. How long’s our drought going to last?” Dempsey said. “I thought about taking the timeout to try to get one right at 32-28… I was glad I swallowed that timeout and Jordan made a play to bail me out.”

After five more lead changes, a 3-pointer by senior guard Dave Coley with 7:44 left to play gave Stony Brook a three-point lead. From there, Binghamton embarked on a 7-0 run, highlighted by three of senior forward Roland Brown’s six points.

But offensive fouls and missed free throws burned the Bearcats down the stretch. With the score tied at 50 and 1:45 to go, Stony Brook scored twice from the field and cashed in four times from the charity stripe, while Binghamton only managed three points.

As thirsty as they’ve been for a win, the Bearcats won’t hang their head over tonight’s loss.

“As long as we can be proud of our performance every time we step onto the court, I don’t think we’ll be down,” Dempsey said. “Their senior guards got them over the top but it took everything that Coley and  [senior guard Anthony] Jackson had to get them out of here with a win…. Even though those guys played great down the stretch, I thought we still were good enough tonight to win.”

Binghamton stifled Stony Brook’s offense, holding it to 15 points under its season scoring average of 73 ppg. Equally impressive was the Bearcats’ effort against sophomore forward Jameel Warney. The 6-foot-8 forward, whom Dempsey called the “best player in this league,” was held to just seven points and eight rebounds tonight as the Bearcats made sure to always have a body on him.

“I feel like we guarded him pretty well,” Brown said. “He didn’t have double digits, he wasn’t a non-factor, but we kept him out most of the game.”

Reed said “the right kind of aggression” allowed him to break down Stony Brook’s defense tonight for game-highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds. It was Reed’s first double-double since a Jan. 5 contest with Maine.

“If we can get [Reed] going like he was going tonight, we’ll be a handful the rest of the way,” Dempsey said.

Jackson finished with 16 points for Stony Brook, while Coley finished with 14, including three 3-pointers.

The Bearcats will next take on Maine. Unlike Stony Brook, who is known for its imposing defense, the Black Bears (5-16, 3-6 AE) will try to get a win by running up the score.

In the teams’ last matchup on Jan. 5, Maine scored 49 points by halftime en route to an 82-66 victory.

“It’s going to be a much more open, up-and-down game. We’re just going to have to stay disciplined and get to their scorers,” Dempsey said. “I think our defensive performance tonight is something that we can build on.”

Tipoff from the Events Center is set for 2 p.m. on Feb. 8.