Dave Katz/Contributing Photographer

Last Tuesday’s matchup between the Binghamton University Bearcats (1-1) and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers (2-0) was originally scheduled with the goal of challenging both teams involved. However, the game, which was played at the University of Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center, ended up being a lopsided win for the host team as the Panthers downed the Bearcats 71-46. The Bearcats never led in the contest, which was a part of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic and aired live on ESPN2.

“We played well in spurts,” said interim head coach Mark Macon, according to a Binghamton University press release. “This game is a stepping stone for us. We have to keep plugging away. This game is built around defense and not turning the ball over and we have a lot of work to do on the defensive end.”

The Panthers spent multiple weeks during the 2008-09 season with the top ranking in the country, but lost its top five leaders in minutes played from last year’s team, and junior guard Gilbert Brown, who averaged the sixth-most minutes per game last season for Pitt, is suspended from the team for the fall 2009 semester. The rebuilding Panthers were set to be a part of a marquee matchup for a Binghamton University men’s basketball program that was rising, until six Bearcats got the boot from the team earlier this semester. The underdog Bearcats entered the contest at a disadvantage from a talent standpoint.

Binghamton managed to hang around for the first six minutes of the game thanks to two 3-pointers by junior guard Chretien Lukusa, the second of which narrowed Pittsburgh’s lead to 8-6. After the 15-minute mark of the first half, the Panthers got on a roll and never looked back. Behind strong play from sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs, who had 17 points in the first half and finished the game with 22 points, Pittsburgh took a commanding 37-17 halftime lead.

The Panthers started the second half on a 7-0 run. The Bearcats were eventually able to slow the Panthers’ stampede and play them relatively even for the rest of the contest.

One bright spot for the Bearcats was the strong play of sophomore big man Kyrie Sutton, who scored a career-best 12 points and pulled down six boards in the contest. Junior walk-on Mahamoud Jabbi, who sat out last season after transferring from State University of New York at Oswego due to NCAA transfer regulations, also continues to impress with his hustle.

Junior forward Greer Wright had nine points and a team-best five assists and juniors Moussa Camara, Chretien Lukusa and Jabbi chipped in six points apiece.

The Panthers are a part of the Big East Conference, one of country’s premier college basketball conferences. Binghamton is 1-7 all time vs. Big East opponents, with its lone win coming last season against Rutgers University.

Next up for the Bearcats are the St. Bonaventure University Bonnies (1-1) of the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Bonnies are coming off a 69-68 loss to St. John’s University on Tuesday, after they missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Bonnies won their season opener last week over Cleveland State University 72-62.

The last meeting between the Bearcats and Bonnies was in the 2007-08 season. The teams faced off twice; Binghamton dropped the season opener 97-80 in a game that saw the collegiate debuts of both current Bearcat captains, Lukusa and Camara. The second match of the season turned out better for Bearcats, as they held off the Bonnies on their home court to win 64-59. The freshman duo combined for a total of 18 points and nine rebounds in 71 minutes of action in the games.

The game, which will be played at St. Bonaventure’s Reilly Center, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.