There’s no place like home for the Binghamton University men’s basketball team.
After a dismal four-game road trip that resulted in four losses, the Bearcats returned home this past Sunday afternoon to host the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers. Being back at home and facing the worst team in the conference provided the perfect scenario for the Bearcats to get back in the win column, and the team did just that as it downed UMBC 81-61.
The Bearcats (12-17, 7-7 America East) started off hot and never looked back, jumping out to an 8-0 lead over the visiting Retrievers (3-25, 2-13 AE), who remain in last place in the AE conference standings with the loss. UMBC and its head coach Randy Monroe have built a reputation for their tough and aggressive style, though they did not show it against the Bearcats. Monroe’s team’s full-court press did not faze Binghamton. The Bearcats were able to run up and down the floor converting easy bucket after easy bucket, as the Retrievers struggled to effectively pressure the ball on defense. Also, despite being a focal point of the team’s practices for the three days leading up to the game, the Retrievers were outrebounded by the home team 43-25 while giving up 15 offensive rebounds.
“Rebounding and stopping transition baskets are two things that we really tried to work on leading up to this game, but that’s something you never would have known from watching those 40 minutes of basketball,” Monroe said.
The coach was also disappointed at his team’s inability to positively respond to the impressive crowd of 4,717 fans at the Events Center. “You need [intensity and focus] to play at the collegiate level,” Monroe said. “When you come up here to play at Binghamton in an environment which is an incredible atmosphere — as a coach you feel like you can go out there and play. You want your guys to feel that when they go out and play. I only have a few guys like that, not everyone is like that yet.”
The Bearcats’ star junior Greer Wright had an off game, converting on only one of eight shots for seven points while also turning the ball over four times. However, junior forward Mahamoud Jabbi, who has been hot of late, and freshman guard Dylan Talley picked up the slack and then some for the Bearcats. Jabbi and Talley scored 20 and 25 points, respectively — both career highs for the first-year Division I players. Jabbi also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game while Talley dished out five assists to only two turnovers. “We were just hitting on all cylinders today,” Macon said.
Leading by just eight points, 20-12 with 11 minutes to play, the Bearcats caught fire and pushed out to a 46-29 halftime lead. Jabbi had 14 points and five rebounds in the first half.
Binghamton tallied a total of 18 assists, its highest output of the season. “I had them doing things in practice where I wouldn’t let them shoot the ball,” said Binghamton interim head coach Mark Macon. “It showed today with how they shared the ball.”
UMBC did get a strong contribution from its star sophomore swingman Chauncey Gilliam, who is averaging over 13 points per game on the season. Gilliam finished the game with 21 points on 8-of-18 field goal shooting. Gilliam was the only player to score in double digits for the Retrievers, who struggled offensively to the tune of 43.9 percent field goal shooting and 53.8 percent free-throw shooting.
Binghamton now sits in fifth place in the AE Conference standings, two games ahead of Hartford and New Hampshire. The Bearcats will take on the Hartford Hawks at the Events Center tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the team’s second-to-last game of the season. The Bearcats are scheduled to wrap up the regular season at Vermont on Sunday at noon.