As college basketball fans around the country watched the season’s opening night on Tuesday, the Binghamton men’s basketball team began its season. With a completely retooled roster, the Bearcats were defeated in their season opener, falling to upstate rival Cornell 84-64 in Ithaca, New York.
The Bearcats (0-1 America East) were competitive initially, trailing 45-38 at halftime. However, the Big Red (1-0 Ivy League) got hot and pulled away in the second half, ending the game on an 8-1 run to seal the win. Despite the loss, Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey seemed happy with how the team battled, stressing that the team’s performance is something that will need to be improved upon as the season progresses.
“I thought we hung in there a long way,” Dempsey said. “We need to keep getting better. That’s the biggest thing.”
Senior forward Pierre Sarr, a graduate transfer student playing in his first game as a Bearcat, led the team in scoring with 16 points, tying his career high. Eleven of those points came in the first half, and Sarr shot 50 percent from the field. Sarr also accumulated four rebounds, two steals and a block in his performance.
“That was good to see from [Sarr],” Dempsey said. “He came out here and delivered a good performance. He got his senior year off to a good start.”
Senior guard Richard Caldwell, Jr. came off the bench and scored 12 points, good enough for second on the team. He finished 4-for-7 on field goals in the game.
The reigning AE Rookie of the Year, sophomore guard Sam Sessoms, did not have an ideal start to his sophomore campaign. He scored just six points in the game and was held scoreless in the second half, but did record five assists on the night.
The starting lineup for Binghamton featured four newcomers, showcasing the young core of the team. Four starters made their Bearcat debut in the game, including freshman forward George Tinsley, who scored 10 points and collected five rebounds in his first collegiate appearance. Additionally, freshman guard Brenton Mills made his debut, scoring eight points off three field goals. Freshmen guards Hakon Hjalmarsson and Dan Petcash and freshman center Ador Athuai also got some playing time in their first taste of collegiate basketball.
“It was nice to get a lot of guys their first action out there,” Dempsey said. “At the same time, that’s a lot of guys getting their first action out there. Our club is going to get better and better. This was a starting point.”
Despite the loss, the game served as a pivotal transition for a majority of the Binghamton men’s players, who are playing in college for the first time. The pace and competitive nature of college basketball is a big leap from the high school level. Dempsey said there is plenty of time before the start of conference play for the team to improve.
“As much as anything, it was about guys getting some experience and getting their feet wet,” Dempsey said. “It’s going to be [a] work in progress through this first half of the season, but we were very prepared for that. Tonight was about seeing where we are, and then we gotta get better.”
The Bearcats’ next game this Sunday marks a significant challenge for Dempsey’s team. For the first time in program history, Binghamton will take on the top-ranked team in the country when they play No. 1 Michigan State. The game will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network.
Tipoff against the Spartans is set for 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10 at the Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing, Michigan.