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Overtime loss to AE regular-season champs encourages men’s basketball

The Binghamton men’s basketball team nearly accomplished what no other America East team had achieved in more than a month — beat Vermont.

The Bearcats ultimately fell short in overtime, 92-82, at the Events Center today, but they’ll take solace in their effort against the league’s regular season champion.

“I think it just shows how much we’ve grown as a team,” freshman guard Yosef Yacob said. “We went up there and got killed [72-39 on Jan. 26], and we forced them into a tight game [today]. It just shows that we’re growing and we’re improving.”

With the loss, Binghamton (7-22, 4-12 America East) will carry the No. 6 seed into the America East quarterfinals on Saturday night. Hartford awaits as the No. 3 seed. Binghamton would face either No. 2 Stony Brook or No. 7 Maine in the semifinals.

“We’re going up [to Albany] to win two games and put ourselves in a position for a championship,” BU head coach Tommy Dempsey said.

That championship game will likely run through Burlington, Vt., and the Bearcats feel like they would stand a chance in a rematch. A few crucial shots did not fall for them today, allowing Vermont (21-9, 15-1 AE) to force overtime.

“That was the number one team,” sophomore guard Jordan Reed said. “It definitely gives me motivation that we can knock anybody off.”

Reed, who joined Anthony Green and Greer Wright as the only Bearcats to eclipse the 30-point threshold twice in a career, finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds. He split a pair of foul shots with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, tying the game at 76 but failing to take the lead.

One possession earlier, Yacob had missed a 3-pointer that would have handed Binghamton a five-point lead.

“It felt like the best shot I took the entire night,” said Yacob, who finished with 22 points on 5-of-18 shooting from the field. “I really thought it was going in. It rattled out. It happens.”

Reed fouled out just 40 seconds into overtime, joining four other disqualified Bearcats. Down by two points, Reed made contact with Vermont senior forward Brian Voelkel coming around a screen.

“It was disappointing to call an off-the-ball foul on a guy that’s having a game like that when it doesn’t affect a scoring play. We didn’t get the ball from it,” Dempsey said. “To me, you don’t foul out the best player. I wouldn’t expect them to foul out [Vermont senior guard Sandro] Carissimo or Voelkel on a play like that, and I wouldn’t expect them to foul out my guy on a play like that.”

The referees whistled 65 fouls in the game, which resulted in a Binghamton record 95 free-throw attempts between the two teams and disrupted the contest’s rhythm.

“One thing I can say is it was consistent at least,” Reed said of the game’s officiating. “It was both ways, you know. As long as it’s both ways, it’s good with Jordan Reed, and I’m sure it’s good with Coach Dempsey.”

Despite the loss, Dempsey, Reed and Yacob were in high spirits in the postgame press conference. The Bearcats have peaked at the optimal time, winning three of their last six regular-season games. Even in the losses, Binghamton has hung with the top three teams in the conference.

“I’m excited about where we are. I’m having a lot of fun coaching this team and going to practice every day and getting ready,” Dempsey said. “I’m excited about the conference tournament. I’m excited to go back to work tomorrow and prepare for it.”