It was another missed opportunity for the Binghamton University men’s basketball team this Saturday.
With just four chances remaining to erase the zero from their regular season win column, the Bearcats (0-26, 0-14 America East) headed south to Radford, Va. for a Sears BracketBusters series non-conference matchup against the Radford University Highlanders (6-23, 2-14 Big South). Despite battling back from a 16-point deficit in the second half, the Bearcats had their late rally fall short, as Radford topped Binghamton 64-59.
“It just shows our improvement,” Binghamton head coach Mark Macon said of the close final score. “The guys are continuing to fight until the end of the clock. It’s just happenstance we end up on the wrong side of the coin, but they continue to fight and continue to show me that they’re never giving up.”
After finding themselves down by 16 with just over 11 minutes left in the second half, the Bearcats embarked on an 18-6 run that spanned over nine minutes and pulled them within four points of Radford with 2:08 left to play. But BU would not get the ball back for another minute and a half as the Highlanders ran down the clock with three consecutive offensive rebounds despite being unable to extend their lead during the possession.
With 18 seconds remaining, BU junior forward Javon Ralling hit a free throw to make it a one-possession game. Following a 30-second Binghamton timeout, the Bearcats promptly fouled, losing only one second off the clock. In a big break for the Bearcats, Radford’s R.J. Price missed both of his free throws and freshman forward Ben Dickinson came up with the rebound.
With 17 seconds left on the clock, the Bearcats’ first win of the season seemed within reach. But as Dickinson brought the ball up the court, his pass to junior guard Jimmy Gray soared out of bounds. The turnover was attributed to Gray and was Binghamton’s 18th of the night.
“He just took his eyes off the ball,” Macon said. “It could’ve went either way. He [catches] it, he comes down, he does something good, or he loses it like he lost it … But we have to live with that.”
Following Gray’s turnover, Binghamton was forced to foul and Radford extended its lead by a point from the free-throw line. The Bearcats got the ball back with less than 10 seconds left, but, down by four the deficit proved too much. Junior guard Mike Horn missed a chance from behind the arc and the Highlanders grabbed the rebound. Radford hit one more free throw before the clock ran out, taking the game 64-59.
“We’re putting the work in, in a lot of places, we’re getting it done,” Macon said. “It’s just things don’t happen the way we want them to all the time. We’re doing a great job rebounding … We’ve been playing pretty good defense, and we’ve been fighting … to stay in games. We just get behind, get down a little bit, but we continue to fight back and stay in the game … We’ve had opportunities the last few games to [win], and we just didn’t come out on the winning end.”
Binghamton ended the game with a 40.7 field goal percentage after shooting just over 33 percent from the field in the first half.
Dickinson led the charge in the second half, scoring all of his team-high 14 points in the game’s final 20 minutes after sitting out all but five minutes of the first due to early foul trouble. The freshman also added a team-best nine rebounds, along with three assists.
Freshman Omar Richards contributed with 13 points and a pair of steals, and sophomore guard Rob Mansell added 10 points and three assists in just 19 minutes of play. Macon said that Mansell’s playing time was partly limited due to a “sore ankle” that he tweaked in the team’s previous game, but considers the Bearcats’ leading scorer to be “fully healthy.”
Binghamton now has just three regular season games remaining on its schedule. The Bearcats are set to return home tonight for a match against second-place University of Vermont before playing their final home game of the regular season Thursday night against University at Albany. The team is scheduled to close out regular season play at University of New Hampshire on Sunday.
BU suffered double-digits losses to both Vermont and UNH when they met earlier in the season, but fell to Albany by just six points on the road back in January.
Tip-off for tonight’s game against Vermont is set for 7 p.m. at the Events Center.