While all of those in attendance tonight at Lundholm Gymnasium began to gather their belongings as Marlon Beck II stepped to the line, the freshman guard reminded them that when crunch time rolls around and the game is on the line, the law of averages is irrelevant.
With 4.5 seconds left in regulation and the Binghamton men’s basketball team trailing 62-59, Beck, a 57 percent shooter from the charity stripe this season, calmly drained three consecutive free throws to force overtime, where the Bearcats (6-19, 3-9 America East) would escape with a 72-71 victory at New Hampshire.
“Even if you’re an 80 percent shooter, to make three with the game on the line is tough,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “When you’re a 57 percent free throw shooter, to make three at the end of the game, it’s just all heart.”
After Beck drained a 3-pointer from the left wing with a minute remaining to give BU its first overtime lead, 69-68, senior forward Roland Brown went toe-to-toe with UNH 6-foot-10 senior forward Chris Pelcher, blocking his shot and grabbing the rebound.
Beck then converted two more free throws with 31 seconds left in overtime to give the Bearcats a 71-68 advantage, but freshman guard Daniel Dion answered right back for New Hampshire (6-18, 4-7 AE) with a 3-pointer from NBA range to tie the game with 19 seconds left.
With Binghamton holding the ball for the final shot, Dempsey put the game in the hands of sophomore forward Jordan Reed. The most recent America East co-Player of the Week drove hard at the basket and missed a layup in traffic, but was fouled in the ensuing skirmish for the ball and went to the line with 1.5 seconds to go.
After missing his first free-throw attempt, Reed rattled home the back-end in what proved to be the game’s finishing touch.
“I knew I wanted to get it into his hands, and we got him the ball on the right side of the court where he’s most effective,” Dempsey said. “You put a lot of pressure on the officials in that spot because anyone who’s watched Jordan play for the last two years, when he gets a full head of steam going to the basket, there’s going to be contact. And I think the initial contact wasn’t called, but he competed for the ball when it came off the rim as he always does and then the refs were forced to call a foul.”
The victory marked the first time Binghamton has won consecutive games against Division I opponents since Jan. 2011. It was also BU’s first AE road win this season.
“My confidence was growing even through some of the losses,” Dempsey said. “I was starting to feel better about our process here but it is really nice to get a couple of wins in a row to just validate our efforts.”
In their first matchup this season at the Events Center on Jan. 9, Binghamton torched New Hampshire, 67-38. But the Wildcats were without Dion and Pelcher in that loss, two assets that nearly got them over the hump this time around.
“[Dion] is a really good young point guard in this league. And Pelcher gives them a great presence on the inside. I mean they shot over 50 percent from three, and a lot of that is because of all the attention that you have to put on Pelcher,” Dempsey said. “Tonight, we had to pick our poison, and what we tried to do was put a crowd around Pelcher, make them beat us from three. They had a good night shooting the ball from there, but we were able to overcome it.”
While senior guard Jordon Bronner was virtually a nonfactor in the teams’ first game (1-of-8 from the field for six points), his 3-point shooting stunted any plans the Bearcats had of pulling away tonight. Bronner began his night 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, but in the second half, it took him over 12 minutes to score from the field.
“He’s a good shooter, not a great shooter, but he had a great first half, so we had to make an adjustment,” Dempsey said. “Once we cleaned up our underneath out-of-bounds defense and then gave a lot of attention to him when we were running out of our press, we were able to limit his looks.”
Beck’s late outburst gave him a team-high 17 points, and Reed contributed across the board again, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds, a career-high six steals and three assists. Brown and sophomore guard Karon Waller added nine points apiece, while senior forward Alex Ogundadegbe pulled down eight rebounds.
For New Hampshire, Pelcher finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, and Bronner contributed 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field. Freshman foward Jacoby Armstrong also reached double figures, finishing with 14 points, while Dion just missed a double-double with nine points and nine assists.
The Bearcats are still scraping the bottom of the America East standings, but they now have some company — Maine and Binghamton are tied for last, 1.5 games behind seventh-place New Hampshire.
Up next, BU will try and avenge a Jan. 20 loss to fourth-place Albany when the two meet again at the Events Center on Feb. 19. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.