The Binghamton men’s basketball squad secured their third conference win against UMass Lowell, led by freshman forward George Tinsley and sophomore guard Sam Sessoms. Despite the River Hawks (11-16, 5-7 America East) closing the gap, they didn’t complete the comeback, and the Bearcats won with a final score of 86-84. However, the Bearcats (9-18, 3-11 AE) couldn’t pull off a win against third-place Hartford after going down to the wire on Saturday, losing 75-74.
Despite scoring 39 points to move into third all-time in scoring for the Bearcats, Sessoms was primarily focused on leading his team to victory against the River Hawks.
“I knew [I] had a good game, but I don’t really keep track of points and all that,” Sessoms said. “My main goal was to come in, because we need to win every game like [Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey] said. We can’t do that without winning the first game, so my goal was to do whatever I needed to do to compel my team to get the [win]. I don’t care about the points as long as we win.”
The Bearcats’ defensive performance improved drastically in the second half, as they forced eight turnovers and were able to score 18 points off miscues by the River Hawks. UMass Lowell junior guard Obadiah Noel turned the ball over five times and went 2-for-12 on field goal attempts, as the Bearcats’ guards shut down the River Hawks’ backcourt for the majority of the match.
The Bearcats were efficient on the offensive end, as they continued to find open lanes on drives and open looks from three. The River Hawks had no response to Sessoms, who continued to find his way to the rim throughout the match, netting two 3-point attempts. Tinsley and freshman guard Hakon Hjalmarsson led in shots from behind the arc, and Binghamton hit 11 of its 19 attempts.
In the final minutes, UMass Lowell was able to bring the game to a one-possession match, as it was more aggressive offensively and began to control Sessoms on the attack. UMass Lowell graduate student forward Josh Gantz, the River Hawks’ leading scorer in the game, tied the contest with a 3-pointer in the final minute. Sessoms, however, was able to regain the Binghamton lead with a tough fadeaway jumper.
Against Hartford on Senior Day, Binghamton was led by Sessoms’ 22 points and senior guard Richard Caldwell, Jr., who was a defensive and offensive anchor throughout the match, scoring 18 points overall. Senior forward Pierre Sarr added 11 points, eight boards and four steals, and Tinsley found several open teammates on the offensive, finishing with six assists.
“I thought we had a pretty complete effort — we got contributions from a lot of different guys,” Dempsey said. “[Caldwell] got off to a great start on Senior Day which was nice, and [Sessoms] had a good game. I know he feels awful right now because that last shot didn’t go in, but he really played a good game.”
The Bearcats overwhelmed Hartford to start the match with quick, aggressive transition on the offensive end, forcing the Hawks into difficult shots. Hartford’s main scoring threats of graduate student guard Malik Ellison, freshman forward Moses Flowers and sophomore forward Hunter Marks rarely found opportunities against the Binghamton defense. However, Flowers found his rhythm late in the first half and continued to produce into the second, finishing with 15 points.
The Bearcats opened the second half with a shaky offensive performance, hitting only one of their first eight shots, while the Hawks continued to narrow the lead, as they collected 18 offensive rebounds in the game and climbed up the scoreboard. Scrappy plays from both teams lead to a shared total of eight personal fouls in the first seven-and-a-half minutes. However, the Hawks’ shooters started to net their shots. Hartford sophomore guard Michael Dunne drained three clutch 3-pointers down the stretch to bring the Hawks within striking distance, taking the lead for the first time of the match with two minutes left.
“I thought we played a really good game, and Hartford came back nicely and gave themselves a chance in the first half where they were in striking distance,” Dempsey said. “They played a really good second half, and those [3-pointers] were killers. We were playing good defense, and we were really keying in on Ellison and [graduate student guard Traci] Carter. One of the other guys for their team had to step up and it was Dunne.”
The Bearcats lost their shooting touch in the second half, netting 42 percent of their shots from three, but only scoring on two of 12 attempts in the second.
The teams traded key buckets in the final seconds of the match, including a 3-pointer from Hjalmarsson and a layup by Carter with seven seconds left. Sessoms was not able to connect on a last-second 3-pointer, allowing the Hawks to pull away.
The Bearcats will look to improve off this tough loss with a game against UMBC on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from the UMBC Event Center in Baltimore, Maryland.