Over the course of two games, the Binghamton men’s basketball team may have played the best it has all season. The Bearcats (8-20, 4-9 America East) secured a dominant 81-66 win over UMass Lowell, and fell in a narrow 69-63 defeat against the first-place Vermont Catamounts.
The Bearcats’ offense was lethal against the River Hawks (14-15, 6-8 AE), as it scored 81 points on 55 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent from behind the arc.
UMass Lowell could not quiet freshman guard Sam Sessoms, who had 21 points. He was joined in the top-three Binghamton scorers by senior forward Caleb Stewart and graduate student guard J.C. Show, who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. Show has hit his stride as the AE tournament nears, registering 59 points over the last three games.
The River Hawks let the Bearcats get ahead early with a 12-point lead eight minutes in, and BU kept its foot on the pedal for the duration of the game.
“I think it was one of those nights where [we] had many guys play well, we had good performances from our starting five,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “Then we had quality production off the bench, namely from [senior guard] Timmy Rose, and [freshman forward] Calistus [Anyichie] and his minutes, as [graduate student forward Chancellor Barnard] got in early foul trouble. He rebounded the ball well and made some key stops in the middle of the zone. It was a complete performance from our group and one of our better performances of the year.”
In a tense and scrappy match on Senior Day for Binghamton this past Saturday, the Bearcats gave the AE-leading Catamounts (22-6, 11-2 AE) a scare in a match that was always in reach for the Bearcats. Vermont’s largest advantage was just 10, occurring at the midpoint of the first half. The Catamounts eventually pulled away in the final five minutes for the victory.
“It was a really hard-fought game, give every player that played in that game credit,” Dempsey said. “Everybody played as hard as they could, we had our opportunities, but we just were not able to get it done. I’m proud of the way we played and competed and we saw that the team is getting better.”
The Bearcats’ offense went quiet in the final five minutes. Following tears by Show and Sessoms, Show was absent in the pivotal stretch of the game. He finished with a strong overall performance, with 22 points on the afternoon, a perfect 6-of-6 on 3-pointers and 7-of-9 overall on field goals.
“It felt good,” Show said, “but we would have liked to come out with a win first and foremost, but like coach said, we’re trying to collectively and individually be as close to our potential as possible at the end of the year, so we got to keep our eyes down and keep working toward that goal.”
Vermont redshirt senior guard Ernie Duncan was a dynamo throughout the contest. He was lethal from three, shooting 5-of-7 and 7-of-11 in total to finish with 22 points. His 3-point battle against Show was a sight to witness, as they both hit daggers to keep the fans on the edge of their seats throughout the intense second half.
The primary matchup to watch was Vermont junior forward Anthony Lamb against Barnard. Lamb came into the contest with a target on his back, as he leads the AE in scoring with 21.5 points per game. Working against the 2-3 zone, Lamb mostly resided in the high post where he could bang in close and finish at the rim. Barnard forced him into tough shots for most of the game, but Lamb was able to ignite halfway through the second period. He was 3-of-11 until the 16-minute mark of the second, and he finished 10-of-21 from the field for the game.
Vermont freshman forward Isaiah Moll accompanied Lamb down low; although he was statistically insignificant, the freshman’s presence was crucial in the paint. He battled for loose balls and was a force on the defensive end.
Sessoms was not his usual proficient self, with 11 points on 36 percent shooting. Despite his woes, the freshman guard hit a few shots from long range to keep Binghamton in the game late. Show’s hot hand combined with Sessoms’ bounce-back effort created a potent tandem that scared the giant of the AE into a near defeat.
The Bearcats will look to continue their late-season resurgence on Wednesday, Feb. 27 when they host Hartford. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.