Over the winter break, the Binghamton University men’s basketball team battled injuries to star players, opened America East Conference play and went 4-7 over the six-week break. Yesterday, the Bearcats fell to the visiting Vermont Catamounts, extending their losing streak to four.
Senior forward Mahamoud Jabbi had a double-double with a team-high 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Bearcats shot just 18-of-52 (34.6 percent) from the field as the team’s offense was stymied by Vermont’s 1-3-1 trap for the final five minutes of the game.
“We played 35 minutes today,” said BU head coach Mark Macon. “It’s a 40-minute game … We’re a little banged up, but you have to keep on fighting.”
BU (6-14, 3-4) stuck with Vermont (14-5, 5-2) up until the five-minute mark, getting productive minutes from their freshman backcourt of Rob Mansell and K.J. Brown. Both guards got increased minutes as senior forward Greer Wright continues to recover from an ankle injury. Wright played 19 minutes off the bench and was scoreless. Senior guard Chretien Lukusa did not play as a result of a coach’s decision.
“[Lukusa] wasn’t in the plans for us today in terms of how we had to play,” Macon said. “He’s still ready, he’s staying ready.”
The Bearcats currently sit in sixth place in the America East Conference. BU had not performed well against non-conference competition earlier in the season. However, against its fellow America East members, they jumped out to a respectable record with some resilient play amidst injuries to both their offensive backbone, Wright, and their floor leader, Lukusa.
BU’s winter break started with its best game of the season at that point — a one-point victory over Cornell that saw a breakout performance by Jabbi, as he connected on a long jump shot with 14 seconds left to put BU ahead for good, 69-68. Jabbi efficiently scored a team-high 13 points, while Wright added nine points from the free-throw line, and had five rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
BU could not build more momentum, however, as it lost a close game to St. Peter’s, 61-56. The Bearcats played lackadaisically in the first half and found themselves down 12 at intermission. Their comeback fell short as Wright missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer down the stretch. The scoring stars did not align at the same time for BU, as Wright scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the first half while senior forward Moussa Camara dropped all 15 of his points in the second half.
“We needed to execute better in the first half,” said head coach Mark Macon, according to a Binghamton University press release. “We need to put a full game together. We just couldn’t finish it off … it was too little, too late.”
BU proceeded to drop its next three games. They were no match for Marshall’s huge front line and lost 85-60; furthermore, Lukusa injured his ankle and only played nine minutes. Two days later, the team fell to Morehead State 80-74 despite shooting 53 percent from the field and getting a gutsy comeback performance by Lukusa. In their first game in 2011, the Bearcats were dominated by La Salle, losing 84-67. La Salle had 25 offensive rebounds, while BU had 23 total rebounds.
BU snapped its four-game losing streak by defeating New Hampshire on Jan. 8 by the score of 66-61. Jabbi scored a game-high 17 points for BU, who lost Wright to an ankle injury. Wright did score 16 points in 30 minutes. It was BU’s first America East Conference game of the season.
The win at New Hampshire seemed to catapult the Bearcats as they won their next two games despite Wright’s absence. Camara had a brilliant performance against Stony Brook, scoring a game-high 28 points, including five 3-point makes. Camara was ultra-aggressive from the start and took the initiative to pick up the scoring slack, knocking down pull-up jumpers in the halfcourt and attacking the basket in transition. Junior center Kyrie Sutton blocked five shots and altered a few others while providing a defensive presence in the paint.
The Bearcats knocked off UMBC 83-75 for their next win. Jabbi had a double-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks, while sophomore guard Jimmy Gray scored 23 points and dished six assists. Jabbi was a constant inside-outside presence, knocking down outside jumpers while hitting the glass and protecting the paint. Gray buried five 3-point baskets.
The Bearcats’ three-game winning streak was snapped on Jan. 15 as they lost 77-51 to Maine. Wright returned against Hartford after missing three games, but it didn’t help as BU was downed 72-61. Sutton dominated inside with career-bests of 21 points and 14 rebounds, but the Bearcats couldn’t muster enough offense to complement their big man’s efficient play. BU was completely shut down by Albany last Thursday, falling 76-37. BU shot 12-of-57 from the field for the game.
Binghamton’s next game is set for Wednesday at Boston University. The Bearcats are looking to avenge last year’s 42-point thrashing at the hands of the Terriers in Boston.
“We have a chip on our shoulders from last year, how they beat us from last year,” Sutton said. “We’ve just been talking about that game. We want to take it to them.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.