On Friday night, the Binghamton men’s basketball team traveled to Evanston, Illinois to face off against the Northwestern Wildcats of the Big Ten. Unfortunately for the Bearcats (1-3), the team was unable to compete with its major conference opponent for much of the game. The Wildcats (3-0) defeated Binghamton 82-54.
The game was broadcast on ESPN News, the first time in two years that the Bearcats have appeared on national television. On the call were “Pardon the Interruption” co-hosts Michael Wilbon, a graduate of Northwestern, and Binghamton alum Tony Kornheiser, ’70. During his time at BU, Kornheiser served as the sports editor of Pipe Dream, then called The Colonial News.
While not known as one of the top basketball schools in the Big Ten, two years ago Northwestern had its most successful season in school history, making its first ever trip to the NCAA tournament after receiving an at-large bid. The Wildcats advanced to the round of 32 before falling to Gonzaga. Last season was a step back, as the team finished with a 15-17 record and lost its first game of the Big Ten tournament.
The first half was nothing short of domination by Northwestern. The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-0 lead and did not allow Binghamton to cut its lead to more than six for the duration of the game. It took a three-pointer by graduate student guard J.C. Show in the fourth minute of the game to put the Bearcats on the board, and throughout the duration of the half, BU scored just 16 more points. Northwestern ended the half with a comfortable 48-19 advantage.
“They came out and played very well early and enforced their will on us physically,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey, per bubearcats.com. “We had some good looks early that needed to go in if we were going to compete but Northwestern just ran away from us in that first half.”
With the game all but over at halftime, the Bearcats were playing for pride in the second half. Just before the 10-minute mark, Northwestern took a 74-33 lead, with its 41-point margin the largest of the game. But Binghamton showed fight in them, going on a 19-2 run to cut the Wildcats’ advantage to 24.
The Bearcats finished the second half with 35 points, as opposed to Northwestern’s second half total of 34. While not nearly enough to capture the game, the team did not quit against a superior opponent, playing hard even after the game appeared to be over.
“At halftime we regrouped and won the second half,” Dempsey said. “That wasn’t our goal coming in here but that’s all you can do when you have that kind of deficit is focus on the next 20 minutes.”
Despite losing the game by 28 points, the Bearcats demonstrated improvement as the game went on. The team was seven-for-32 on field goals in the first half, converting just 21 percent, but improved to completing 48 percent of attempts in the second half.
“I thought our kids gathered themselves and played good basketball,” Dempsey said. “They settled into the game but the hole was too big.”
Show led the Bearcats in scoring with 15 points, including 12 in the second period. For the first time this season, freshman guard Sam Sessoms was not the leading scorer, but his total of 11 points was good enough for second on the team.
This game marked the first of three marquee nonconference opponents scheduled for the Bearcats this season. In December, the team will take on both Notre Dame and the reigning NCAA tournament runner-up, Michigan. After having strong performances in a relatively easy nonconference slate the past two seasons, the team faltered during conference play. Ideally for Dempsey’s squad, these challenging matchups will help Binghamton better prepare for its America East opponents.
Next up for the Bearcats is a road matchup against Colgate on Monday, Nov. 19. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from the Cotterell Court in Hamilton, NY.