A matchup between a second- and last-place team may not seem exciting; however, Wednesday’s contest between the Binghamton men’s basketball team and Stony Brook was anything but boring. Though the Seawolves led for the vast majority of the game, the Bearcats were never down by more than 10 and took the battle deep into the second half. As the final half progressed, the crowd’s roar at the Events Center grew louder and louder after each Bearcat basket.
BU’s fight was at its hottest moment with under a minute left. Two successful free throws by senior guard Richard Caldwell, Jr. put Binghamton down by three with 58 seconds to go. Thanks to a travel, Stony Brook gave the ball back to Binghamton with 33.8 seconds. After several seconds of ball movement and a solid Seawolves defense, Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey called a timeout to draw up one last play.
A couple of passes exchanged between sophomore guard Sam Sessoms and freshman guard Brenton Mills led to Mills taking a deep three. The home crowd was ready to get up and cheer as the shot flew near the basket, but it rimmed out and Stony Brook secured the rebound and the victory. Despite the strong effort, the Bearcats (8-16, 2-9 America East) lost 75-70 to the Seawolves (17-9, 8-3 AE).
“Our guys did what they needed to do to get ourselves a win,” Dempsey said. “Credit Stony Brook. They found a way to get out of here with a win, and it wasn’t through any lack of effort on our part. I was really pleased with how we played. I thought our effort was great.”
Sessoms led BU’s effort with 22 points and seven assists. With a successful free throw early in the first period, he became the seventh player in the 41-year history of the AE to accumulate 1,000 career points as a sophomore.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Sessoms said. “I’m proud of myself for being able to achieve that at this stage of my college career. I guess it just speaks volumes about the people that surround me. My coaches and teammates helped me get into this position.”
After the game, Dempsey said he is “blessed” to have Sessoms on his team and that he’s only going to get better.
“He’s a tough kid and wants to win,” Dempsey said. “We have a young group and he’s the floor general of that group and they’re going to get better and better.”
Caldwell also had a big outing for Binghamton, scoring 17 points and securing six rebounds. Dempsey praised the senior for having a “great second half” after a first period that included “some bad shots” and “a couple of” missed defensive assignments.
Freshman forward George Tinsley was the only other Bearcat to score in double digits, ending with 11 points.
“[Tinsley] continues to be very steady,” Dempsey said. “He’s just a good basketball player. He’s just solid in every aspect and continues to play well.”
Devoted Bearcats fans should have known better than to expect a boring game against the Seawolves. Entering Wednesday, Binghamton won its last two games against Stony Brook, including a quarterfinal playoff matchup last March. However, this loss is BU’s fifth in a row and keeps them in last place in the AE. With eighth-place Maine losing tonight against New Hampshire, Binghamton failed to make up ground.
“It’s certainly never easy to lose and we’re in a position now where we need every win we can get,” Dempsey said. “We had one that was within our reach tonight and it’s disappointing to not get it.”
Anything but a last-place finish will take BU to the playoffs. With the season winding down, Binghamton needs to turn the ship around fast. Though the pressure is on, Sessoms said the team knows the way to the playoffs is through the advice of their head coach.
“Like Coach Dempsey said after the game, we just got to stay together,” Sessoms said. “That’s the right message. Nobody can quit and we can’t quit on each other.”
Next up for the Bearcats is a road matchup against first-place Vermont on Saturday, Feb. 15. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Patrick Gym in Burlington, Vermont.