There’s a reason it’s called March Madness.
After recording just its second victory all season in Thursday’s America East tournament play-in game, the No. 9-seeded Binghamton University men’s basketball team nearly pulled out an impossible upset over top-seeded Stony Brook University in the AE quarterfinals on Saturday.
Despite trailing for the entire first half, the Bearcats battled back to take a four-point lead with 12 minutes left to play. But the Seawolves used a 62.5 percent second-half field goal percentage to push past the Bearcats, who saw their season end in a 78-69 defeat.
“They played their butts off, they gave me everything they had and I can’t be more proud of them,” Binghamton head coach Mark Macon said. “We were in a position to win this game and it just got away from us … We were beat by a veteran team, solid players, good players at every position.”
With leading scorer sophomore guard Rob Mansell out with an injury for the second consecutive game, the Binghamton offense stepped up, shooting 50 percent from the field and combining for more total points than in any other conference game during the regular season. Prior to Saturday, the Bearcats had reached 69 points in just two games all season: their season opener against Colgate University on Nov. 11 and last Thursday’s postseason win over University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Binghamton freshman forward Ben Dickinson led all scorers with 20 points, adding four assists and a pair of blocks. The rookie shot 8-of-14 with two 3-pointers against Stony Brook, finishing the tournament with a combined 41 points.
“How he sees the game, that’s not freshman maturity, that’s basketball IQ and maturity; that has nothing to do with age,” Macon said of Dickinson. “He’ll make a great teacher of this game because he sees the game much different than other guys who play, and he’s a big man. He sees the game … sometimes like Larry Bird … Larry’s a legend in the sense that he saw the game in slow motion. This kid has an inkling of that in the way he sees things on the floor … I’m proud of this guy.”
Dickinson combined with junior guard Jimmy Gray and freshman guard Chris Longoria for 53 of the team’s 69 points. Gray and Longoria recorded 16 and 17 points, respectively. Gray, who collected a season-high nine assists, also hit a game-best four shots from behind the arc in a full 40 minutes of play. Starting in place of Mansell, Longoria finished right behind Gray with three 3-pointers and three assists in 29 minutes.
After opening the second half with a 10-4 run highlighted by seven points from Dickinson, Binghamton took its first lead of the game on a Dickinson layup with just under 16 minutes left. With 12:17 left on the clock, a 3-pointer from Longoria pushed BU’s lead to 47-43.
But over the next seven and a half minutes, Stony Brook went on a 23-6 run to put Binghamton down by 13 points with under five minutes left to play. The Bearcats battled back to within six points with 29 seconds remaining, but Stony Brook made three of its next four free throws to fend off a BU comeback and secure the victory.
Despite shooting 55 percent from the field in the second half, the Bearcats made no trips to the free-throw line in the game’s final 20 minutes. Stony Brook, on the other hand, shot 22-of-34 from the line for the game, including 10 made free throws in the final 1:27.
After shooting just over 39 percent from the field in the first half, Stony Brook finished the game with a 50 percent field goal percentage thanks to 62.5 percent shooting in the second. The Seawolves had five different players break double-digits in scoring, and outrebounded Binghamton 36-25.
Stony Brook is scheduled to host No. 2 University of Vermont in the America East championship game at 11:02 a.m. on Saturday. The game can be seen on ESPN2.