With the Binghamton men’s basketball team trailing for most of its season-opening matchup against Marist on Saturday, the Bearcats were fighting back in the fourth quarter. Trailing 60-57 with less than two seconds on the clock, sophomore forward George Tinsley was desperately searching for an option on the inbound pass for a last-second shot. He found one of the Bearcats newcomers, junior guard Tyler Bertram, who launched a desperation three and connected, sending the game to overtime.
The Bearcats were ultimately defeated 68-65 at the Events Center by the Red Foxes. In a rematch the next day in Poughkeepsie, New York, the game came down to a similar margin, albeit with less drama, but Binghamton lost 64-60 to drop to 0-2 on the season.
“We started a group [on Saturday] that had never played together, even in practice,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “We settled in and did some really good things and things we can build off of.”
The Red Foxes (2-0), ended last season with a 7-23 record and lost in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) playoffs.
A rusty first half on Saturday saw the Bearcats connect on just 29.6 percent of their field-goals and three out of their 10 3-pointer attempts. Senior forward Thomas Bruce, who had not played a Division I basketball game in over 1,000 days, struggled to capitalize on free-throw opportunities, while Tinsley, last year’s AE Rookie of the Year, made just one shot from the floor. The Red Foxes quickly capitalized on the lack of production in the first, taking a 34-23 lead at halftime.
The Bearcats managed to find their footing in a nail-biting second half, erasing a 14-point lead with a 17-3 run in just over six minutes to put them level with the Red Foxes with 10 minutes to go. Bruce began to be a threat in the paint, contributing nine points in the half. Sophomore guard Hakon Hjalmarsson contributed another nine points from outside the arc to help Binghamton make up the deficit. At the close of the half, however, Marist’s consistency at the net kept them in the lead, forcing Bertram’s buzzer-beater to send the matchup to overtime tied at 60.
“We were really sluggish in the first half,” Dempsey said. “Then we settled in. I was proud of the way we came back and were able to put the game in overtime. We had a much better second half and hopefully it was a sign of things to come.”
While the Bearcats earned their first lead of the game during overtime, they were ultimately unable to capitalize on their progress and lost 68-65. Despite a tough first half, Bruce earned a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds and scoring 14 total points, only second to sophomore guard Brenton Mills, who was the team’s best offensive player throughout with 20 points.
With one game under their belts, Sunday’s road game seemed like an improvement for the Bearcats. The Bearcats went toe-to-toe with the Red Foxes, holding the lead for much of the first half until the five-minute mark, ending the half down 30-28. However, the second half told a different story for Binghamton. Marist built up its lead throughout the half, eventually leading by 11 points with three minutes remaining. The final nail in the coffin for the Bearcats was Bruce fouling out of the game after picking up his fifth with 2:17 on the clock. Having been the game’s second top-scorer on the Binghamton end, the remaining lineup was unable to make up the deficit and fell to Marist 60-64.
“I thought going in [the game] was just gonna be a starting point,” Dempsey said. “Whether we won by 20 or lost by 20, it was nice to get out there.”
Mills was both games’ top-scorer, totaling 19 points on Sunday to add to his 20-point showing the day before. Bruce, while unable to match his double-double from Saturday, still managed four blocks in addition to his 12-point contribution before fouling out. Tinsley saw improvement, scoring nine and recording eight assists and eight rebounds in the second game after being held to just three points in the season opener.
“You have to remember, [Bruce] was coming off a hand injury where he was out for a month and [Tinsley] didn’t practice this week because he pulled his hamstring on Monday,” Dempsey said. “Those guys have never played together.”
Although the Bearcats have yet to announce any other nonconference games at the moment, they may schedule additional matchups before their conference opener against Stony Brook on Dec. 19.