David Katz/Assistant Photo Editor

Riding the shoulders of their star player, the Binghamton University men’s basketball team treated returning students to a solid victory over rival Vermont.

Junior Greer Wright exploded for a season-high 30 points and 10 rebounds leading the Bearcats (8-13, 3-3 America East) to a 73-67 win over visiting Vermont (14-7, 5-2 AE). His offensive output along with junior forward Mahamoud Jabbi’s defense had an Events Center crowd of 3,928 on their feet at the final buzzer. It was the first home game played in front of students since Dec. 7.

With the Catamounts holding a 62-60 lead with just 2:01 left, Wright hit a 3-pointer to regain the lead. He followed with two free throws to give BU a three-point lead with 1:33 to go. Jabbi hit a pair from the line with 1:07 left and Wright grabbed a defensive rebound and hit two more free throws to put BU up 69-62 with 57 seconds left to seal it.

“Today we closed our game out,” Binghamton head coach Marc Macon said. “The guys wanted to perform for the students.”

Coming into the game, the Bearcats were the worst free-throw shooting team in the America East, but tonight they made 10 of 12 down the stretch to close the game.

Wright opened the game with stellar shooting; he hit 10-15 from the field and 5-6 from 3-point range. He had BU’s first eight points and propelled his team to a 28-20 lead at the break. The Catamounts were plagued early by sloppy play, including two turnovers to start the game that led to early BU fast-break points.

Vermont senior Maurice Joseph went 0-5 from beyond the arc in the first half but keyed a 16-3 Catamount run to start the second half with three consecutive 3-pointers. The run gave Vermont a 36-31 lead with 16:50 to play.

“We knew they would make runs,” Macon said. “They are one of the best teams in our league.”

Vermont entered the game with nine road wins on the season, best in the nation, and was first place in the AE standings.

“It’s a disappointing loss for us; we didn’t come ready to play,” Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Turnovers and missed free throws cost us the game.”

The Bearcats maintained strong defensive pressure all game long holding the best team in the league to just 33 percent shooting for the game. They also forced poor game play out of one of the best players in the America East. Reigning player of the year UVM senior Marqus Blakely had 14 points and 12 rebounds but struggled from the field on 3-8 shooting and committed a game-high seven turnovers.

“We didn’t execute our game plan,” Lonergan said. “[Binghamton] has talent and they got a great crowd; its one of the hardest places to play and one of the best crowds in the conference. They outplayed us.”

Despite being selected by the league’s head coaches to finish in last (ninth) in the pre-season, the Bearcats have gone 3-3 in conference play and sit in fifth place in the AE.

“We want to get better every game,” Macon said. “There is always something we can do better; so come tournament time we want to be firing on all cylinders, and we want to win three games.”

Jabbi tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and went 8-8 from the free throw line including 4-4 down the stretch.

“It was a great game against a great opponent,” Macon said. “Today we played two halves of a game. Our guys played well, they actually performed like I knew they could.”

Freshman guard Dylan Talley had an off day from the field with nine points going just 2-10, including 0-5 from long-range.

“[Talley] was out there playing defense, that’s the kind of game I want him to have,” Macon said. “I know he can score and put the ball in the basket.”

The Bearcats are set to travel to UMBC on Wednesday and face a struggling program. The Retrievers are 0-7 in AE play and 1-19 overall. The Bearcats last faced UMBC in last season’s AE championship game that BU won 61-51. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.