The way the game went in the first few minutes, it looked as if the Bearcats’ opponent might walk away with a victory. But the Binghamton University men’s basketball team overcame the early deficit to defeat Bloomsburg in its season opener on Saturday, 54-49.
The Bearcats started off the first four minutes and 11 seconds allowing six turnovers and four baskets inside the arc. The score stood 8-0 in favor of the Huskies before a media timeout was called.
“I was shocked how we came out and played in the first 10 minutes,” said Bearcats head coach Mark Macon. “Man, it was something for guys to turn the ball over and not get a shot. That’s a pet peeve of mine. I just don’t like turnovers because it causes teams to lose games.”
After the timeout, it took four missed shots before the Bearcats broke the drought as junior Greer Wright dunked the first Binghamton basket 6 minutes and 20 seconds into the first half. Binghamton continued to close the gap as junior Chretien Lukusa hit a shot from beyond the arc to make the score 8-5.
Throughout the first half, the Bearcats tried to close in on Bloomsburg, but for every shot they put in, the Huskies answered back with one of their own. Binghamton would fall back again with 12:21 remaining, as its opponents expanded their lead 16-9 after Jesse Betar put up a 3-pointer. It would be, however, the last time Bloomsburg would lead by a gap that large.
The Bearcats went on a 9-2 tear to tie the game 18-18 with 7:04 remaining in the half, most of the points coming from free throws. The game was tied two more times before Macon’s squad ended the half up 28-26.
“I think our guys were a little nervous for the first half, but we came back in the second with a little bit harder defense,” said junior forward Moussa Camara.
The Bearcats made 37 percent of their shots in the first half, just 18.2 percent from beyond the arc and 54.5 percent from the free throw line.
In second half, the Bearcats worked on expanding their lead. This time it was Binghamton leading Bloomsburg by seven points after a 5-1 run. Pina Guillaume hit a free throw to put the score 34-27 with 14:57 to go in the half.
Bloomsburg struck back closing to within one point on the Bearcats to put the score at 39-38 with 9:18 to go. Camara and Wright hit shots to expand Binghamton’s lead by four points. Junior Mahamoud Jabbi then followed up on one of his free throws with a rebound jumper to make the score 45-38.
The Huskies once again tried to close the gap, getting as close two points down before Binghamton answered back, expanding its lead again by seven points with less than eight seconds to go in the game to put the score 54-47.
Bloomsburg ended its loss in style as Huskies forward Larry Webster dunked the ball to seal the score, 54-49.
Macon acknowledged the way his squad played in the win.
“We kind of took the lead and held on to it,” Macon said. “I commend my guys, I commend my bench for playing harder because we did start off slow.”
Macon also commended the efforts of freshman Dylan Talley, who put up 10 points and three steals, and Wright, who chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“They showed it in the offense and they were aggressive,” he said. “Those guys really came around, but the other guys really came at us. We have to get better defensively, that’s the main thing. Win games, [get] stops and no turnovers.”
The first win of the season comes as a relief to Lukusa and Camara.
“It’s always good to start on the right foot,” said Camara, who tallied a career-high 16 points. “Right now we are just learning, so it’s good to win the first game.”
Lukusa echoed the same sentiment.
“We came out playing real hard,” he said. “Some of the guys let their emotions get to them [in the first half] but we picked it up and turned it around.”
Macon stated how the pressure is on not only for his players in these games, but for the coaches as well.
“I think [the win] was more of a relief for the kids than it was for me,” Macon said. “I’m just trying to coach. I’m trying to conduct the orchestra the best I can, but I have guys on both sides that really know the game.”
The Bearcats are scheduled to take on Big East powerhouse Pitt Tuesday night. The game will be nationally televised live at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2.