Tommy Dempsey has strained his vocal chords several times this season shouting at his players to sprint to the defensive end instead of celebrating a big shot.
But if the rest of the Binghamton men’s basketball team follows the lead of sophomore guard Jordan Reed, Dempsey won’t have to worry about his players’ proclivity for relishing a moment in the days following the Bearcats’ 73-58 win over Maine.
“It makes me more hungry, I know that much,” Reed said of the team’s first victory since Jan. 9. “Now that we have a good hypothesis of what’s successful, it feels great. I just want to go out there and try it and get more wins for the Bearcat nation.”
Reed sparked Binghamton (5-19, 2-9 America East) with his second consecutive double-double in the win over Maine (5-18, 3-8 AE), this one rounding out to game-highs of 20 points (6-of-11 FG) and 16 rebounds. The sophomore, who broke Sebastian Hermenier’s program career record of 254 made free throws, also added four steals and two blocked shots.
With Reed’s hustle leading by example, the Bearcats followed suit with a gritty 40-minute performance. They led by as many as 18 points and answered every Maine run with a surge of their own.
“When [Reed] plays at that level emotionally it gives his coaches, his teammates, the young team that he’s playing on a confidence that, ‘Alright, lets’ just go with this guy right now’” Dempsey said. “He’s diving on every ball and diving into the bleachers … it’s inspiring.”
Just three weeks ago, Dempsey benched Reed for the second half of Binghamton’s 67-47 loss at Stony Brook. Five days later, he left Reed in Vestal as the team traveled to Albany. Both instances, Dempsey said, were related to Reed’s level of energy.
“He’s really turned that around,” Dempsey said after today’s win, “and I think … they’re following his lead right now.”
The Bearcats, who registered eight steals and afforded sharpshooting Maine junior guard Zarko Valjarevic just one clean look from long range, held an offensive-minded Black Bears squad to 58 points. Maine had failed to eclipse the 60-point threshold just twice in its first 22 games.
The Bearcats shut down the perimeter and raised the pressure in the second half, turning a 33-32 halftime lead into their second-largest margin of victory this year.
“I just feel like it basically came down to passion,” Reed said. “Early in the year, we’ve all seen signals of what we have potential of doing, but in order to play at our best, we have to play with passion for the whole 40 minutes.”
Senior forward Roland Brown embodied that statement and played each of his season-high 31 minutes knowing he will be a college basketball player for just a few more weeks. On the heels of a solid all-around performance against Stony Brook, Brown carved out space inside and finished with a career-high 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
Brown, who has battled knee problems and confidence issues, hasn’t had much to laugh about in his senior season. But when he glanced at the stat sheet after the game and saw his nine rebounds left him one shy of the first double-double of his Division I career, Brown said, “Damn,” and shared a chuckle with his coach.
“Roland’s seeing the ball go in,” Dempsey said. “He’s made some really big-time post moves in the last few games, and I think he’s really starting to feel good about himself.”
“It’s just something to build on, something I know I can do,” Brown said, exuding a confidence that should only help him prolong this recent stretch of success.
Freshman guard Yosef Yacob joined Reed and Brown in double figures with 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting (3-of-6 3-point), but it was classmate and fellow guard Marlon Beck II who delivered the most clutch shot of the day.
With the shot clock winding down and Maine desperately needing a stop to cut into the Bearcats’ 60-51 lead, Beck drained a 3-pointer to put the Bearcats ahead by 12 with 4:22 left.
Beck had converted just three of his 23 3-point attempts since shooting 3 for 5 against Albany on Jan. 20.
“Sometimes when it’s at the buzzer of the shot clock, it takes all the pressure off should I or shouldn’t I [shoot] — you have to shoot it. He delivered,” Dempsey said. “That was a big dagger. I thought that was probably the dagger once that one went in. That was a big shot for him.”
Beck finished with seven points on 2-of-7 shooting. He also dished out four assists, the second of which broke Troy Hailey’s program freshman record of 73.
The Bearcats still reside in last place in the America East, but they trail the Black Bears by one game and UMBC by two.