Despite an outstanding second-half performance by Jordan Reed, the Binghamton men’s basketball team couldn’t put the finishing touches on its comeback at Hartford. The Bearcats, who trailed by 15 points with 17:43 left, fell to the Hawks in overtime, 89-83, Thursday.
Binghamton (7-21, 4-11 America East) could have clinched at least the No. 6 seed with a win, as New Hampshire and Maine each lost earlier in the night. The Wildcats (6-22, 4-11 AE) and Black Bears (5-22, 3-12 AE) will play each other in the regular-season finale on Sunday, so Binghamton will carry either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed into the conference tournament.
Hartford junior guard Wes Cole nailed a clutch 3-pointer with 22 seconds left in overtime to put the Hawks (15-15, 9-6 AE) ahead, 85-81. Nine seconds later Reed, who scored 29 of his career-high 33 points after halftime, cut the gap to two, but Hartford sealed the deal at the foul line.
The Hawks had led by as many as 15 points, but with pressure defense and Reed imposing his will on the offensive end, the Bearcats battled back. Freshman guard Yosef Yacob buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.
“It certainly would have been easy to pack up and go home,” BU head coach Tommy Dempsey said, “but we fought … to get back in the game.”
As part of the fight, Dempsey felt compelled to sub out senior forward Roland Brown, who matched a career-high with 17 points. Brown had been successful offensively down low, but Dempsey wanted to implement a full-court press to cut into the gap.
“He’s not part of our press group, so we decided to go small, press and try to get the game up and down and give ourselves some energy on the road,” Dempsey said.
Binghamton forced a total of nine steals — freshman guard Marlon Beck II accounted for five — and converted 15 Hartford turnovers into 24 points. But when they maintained control of the ball, the Hawks shot 58.8 percent from the field and buried 11 of 24 3-pointers.
Junior forward Mark Nwakamma led Hartford with 19 points and 12 rebounds. He shot seven for nine from the floor. Sophomore guard Taylor Dyson, whose putback with three seconds left beat Binghamton on Jan. 23, and junior guard Yolonzo Moore II added 14 apiece.
If the season were to end today, Binghamton would be the No. 6 seed and Hartford would be the No. 3, setting up a rematch in the quarterfinals. That’s subject to change, with one regular-season game remaining for each team.
If Hartford and Albany finish the season tied, the Hawks would own the tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed, sending the Great Danes (15-13, 9-6) to the No. 4. Binghamton would hold the tiebreaker for the No. 6 seed in the event of a three-way tie with New Hampshire and Maine. A Binghamton loss to Vermont coupled with a New Hampshire win over Maine, however, would drop the Bearcats to the No. 7 seed and a first-round date with No. 2 Stony Brook.
The Bearcats’ tilt with Vermont (20-9, 14-1 AE) will wrap up the regular season. Binghamton will honor its three seniors — guard Rayner Moquete and forwards Brown and Alex Ogundadegbe — before the game.
Tipoff against the Catamounts, who clinched the regular-season title with a win over Stony Brook on Thursday, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Events Center.