After losing to Stony Brook by a large margin of 73-59 in Saturday’s America East (AE) Conference opener, the Binghamton men’s basketball team was looking to bounce back in Sunday’s rematch to earn its first win of the season. A win was within reach in the second half, as the Bearcats launched a comeback to force overtime after being down 12 points early in the second game. However, the team was unable to hold on. The Bearcats were outscored 16-6 in overtime, losing the game 80-70 and dropping to 0-5 on the season.
“That was one of the things I was most pleased with today after struggling yesterday and getting off to a slow start today,” said Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey. “It could have been really easy for us to say, ‘Oh man, we’re just really struggling right now,’ but we settled into the game. Our guys continued to play through the slow start and [found] some rhythm.”
A key Binghamton player was missing from the action in both of Binghamton’s losses last weekend. Senior forward Thomas Bruce, the former AE all-defensive team selection who missed the last two seasons due to a severe concussion, was absent from the lineup while dealing with an injury. Prior to this weekend’s matchups, Bruce had seven total blocks and had been a strong defensive contributor.
“I knew it was going to be tough without [Bruce],” Dempsey said. “You’re not going to replace him because he is so different athletically. He’s our best inside presence. You aren’t going to try to replace him with one guy.“
Without Bruce, sophomore forward Ogheneyole Akuwovo stepped into his starting position on the team. Also joining the starting lineup this weekend was junior guard Christian Hinckson. Following his transfer from Manhattan College to Binghamton, Hinckson’s NCAA waiver request had been denied. However, the NCAA granted all transfers immediate eligibility last week, allowing him to make his Binghamton debut over the weekend.
Five minutes into Sunday’s game, the Bearcats (0-5, 0-2 America East) found themselves down 17-5. However, they went on an 11-0 run to put the pressure back on the Seawolves (4-4, 2-0 AE). During this run, the Bearcats hit three 3-pointers within a two-minute stretch along with a layup by sophomore guard George Tinsley, who led the team by scoring 16 total points on the day. Later in the game, another layup by Tinsley in the middle of the second half put the Bearcats in the lead 46-45 — their first of the game. With 31.6 seconds remaining in regulation and the game tied at 64 points, the Seawolves held on to the last possession but were met with a defensive stop by the Bearcats, sending the game into overtime at 64-64.
The team ultimately fell short in overtime, as Stony Brook pulled away from Binghamton and dominated the extra period. Binghamton scored six points, connecting on just three of 11 field goal attempts en route to the team’s fifth consecutive loss.
“I was proud of our effort today,” Dempsey said. “We’re searching for a win and I think it creates some stress down the stretch of these games … but I thought we had a winning formula today. We competed and played very well. The difference between winning and losing is such a fine line … we are one play away from talking about what a great bounce-back win it was after playing poorly yesterday. Today was a heck of an effort by our group and I felt like we deserved to win. We’re still learning how to win and we have another opportunity on Tuesday.”
Prior to Sunday’s overtime thriller, the Bearcats struggled in their conference opener on Saturday, falling 73-59. Although they kept things competitive in the first 12 minutes of action, they couldn’t contain Stony Brook on the offensive end as the team caught fire late in the half. The Seawolves went on a 22-10 run and took a 38-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Although the Bearcats eventually cut the lead down to 11 during the final minutes of action, Stony Brook retained their lead for the entire half.
“We’re a bunch of new guys still and we got to get off to better starts,” Tinsley said. “We got to be very hungry. Once this team finds that, we could be very successful.”
Tinsley finished Saturday’s game with six points. One of those new players he was referring to was sophomore guard Tyler Bertram, who was the only Bearcat to score double digits on Saturday, finishing with a career-high 12 points.
With the opening series completed, the Bearcats have a nonconference game on Tuesday against Central Connecticut State to work on finding a solution to the team’s early struggles. After that, the team will return to AE play against UMBC next weekend.
“We need an opportunity to get a win,” Dempsey said. “We need to taste it. We need to close the game and feel good about it.”
Tipoff against CCSU is set for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.