College rivalry games are typically fiercer than ordinary contests, and the rivalry between Binghamton and Albany is no exception. Having lost to the Great Danes at home in January by double digits, the Bearcats attempted to split the season series on Wednesday night at SEFCU Arena, but a poor offensive showing against a defensively stout Albany team prevented them from doing so. For the second season in a row, and for the ninth year out of the last 10, Albany swept the season series with the Bearcats, beating them on Wednesday night, 62-49.
Though the final tally indicates a low-scoring contest, it didn’t seem like Albany (13-11, 6-3 America East) would have problems making buckets early on. The Great Danes put up 25 points in the first 12-and-a-half minutes, making seven 3-pointers in that time frame. Binghamton (8-14, 2-7 AE) scored only nine points in the span, an early marker of the offensive struggle it would face all game. Though Albany’s scoring dried up somewhat during the rest of the game, Binghamton failed to produce a scoring run sufficient enough to make it a close contest.
“They got off to a good start shooting the ball,” said Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey. “Then, I thought our defense tightened up. Their defense was solid all night. I think sometimes these second-time-through-the-league-type games, there’s not a lot of open space out there … I thought both teams guarded each other [well].”
Sophomore guard Sam Sessoms did not make much of a mark on the game, tallying nine points on 2-for-11, or 18.2 percent, shooting from the floor. Five of his nine points came from the free-throw line. Two Bearcat forwards, freshman George Tinsley and senior Pierre Sarr, led the Bearcats in scoring with 13 points and 12 points, respectively. Sarr collected nine rebounds, while Tinsley grabbed eight.
Albany’s two leading scorers this season, senior guard Ahmad Clark and sophomore guard Cameron Healy, also did not have an impact on the game, with the two combining for just nine points. Albany’s offense was carried, though, by its bench, which outscored the BU bench, 33-7. Sophomore guard Antonio Rizzuto co-led the Great Danes in scoring with 17 points off the bench, going 5-for-13 from downtown, while sophomore forward Adam Lulka added eight points of his own on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field.
“That’s what it takes,” Dempsey said. “If you have a couple of guys, whether it be injuries or foul trouble in a game, [that] don’t get their normal minutes, then you need guys to step up in their stead, and those guys did that.”
All of the Bearcats’ seven bench points came from freshman guard Dan Petcash. Petcash went 3-for-5 in his 21 minutes on the floor on Wednesday night, and he converted one 3-pointer. Dempsey was encouraged by the performance and said he wants to see Petcash get more playing time down the road.
“We got to get him some more time here in the second half of the year,” Dempsey said. “He can help us by shooting the ball, and we’ve got to try to commit to him a little bit more here going down the stretch, get him more experience. He’s another freshman that needs minutes.”
With the defeat at Albany, the Bearcats have established another three-game losing streak, and have lost six of their last seven contests. The team remains mired in a tie for last place in the AE with Maine, whom the Bearcats face in their next game. Winning that game could go a long way toward qualifying for the AE Tournament, while losing it puts BU in real danger of missing out on a postseason berth.
Tipoff against the Black Bears (6-17, 2-7 AE) is slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.