Coming off of a six-game losing streak, the Binghamton men’s basketball team picked up its second win of the season over New Hampshire Saturday afternoon, 65-44. Carrying the energy and momentum into Sunday’s matchup, the Bearcats took the second game to overtime, but were outscored 15-9 in the extra period and fell 71-65.
“It was certainly a good result and I’m proud of the way we played all weekend,” said Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey. “We played with great energy and great emotion. It was a great basketball game today and it certainly feels lousy to lose that game, especially in overtime.”
Off the court, the America East Conference (AE) announced on Thursday that all teams that play 12 regular season games will now be included in the 2021 AE Championship. This meant that prior to setting foot on the court against UNH, and despite being in last place in the conference, Binghamton had a playoff spot locked up assuming the players stay healthy. The Bearcats did not make the postseason last year after finishing last in the conference.
After missing nine games and returning to action last weekend, senior center Thomas Bruce seemed to be back to his usual self for the Bearcats (2-13, 2-10 AE). He picked up a double-double in Sunday’s loss to the Wildcats (8-7, 7-5 AE), recording 11 points and 11 rebounds. His defensive presence in the first half leveled Binghamton with UNH, with both teams finding leads as large as seven or eight points throughout. According to Dempsey, Binghamton’s newfound energy and defensive stability as a result of Bruce’s return remained consistent throughout the weekend. After a low-scoring first half, the Bearcats took a 26-24 lead into the locker room.
“Certainly the addition of [Bruce] changes your defense,” Dempsey said. “Putting our best defender, and probably the best defender in the league, back on defense made all the difference.”
In the second half, Binghamton held the lead for the majority of the period until the Wildcats tied the game up 48-48 with less than four minutes on the clock. Sophomore guards Brenton Mills and Dan Petcash helped keep up with the Wildcats’ offense, scoring 14 and 12 points respectively in the game. Sophomore forward Bryce Beamer also contributed on the offensive end, scoring 11 points for the Bearcats. However, UNH had its share of offensive production, as junior forward Jayden Martinez had a career-high 24 points while junior forward Nick Guadarrama contributed 18. This UNH duo, aided by Bruce’s missed free throw in the final seconds of the game, led the game into overtime, tied at 56.
Binghamton struggled to stay in the game during overtime. The Wildcats began to find offensive rhythm and the Bearcats did not take the lead in extra time. UNH outscored Binghamton 15-9 in overtime en route to a 71-65 victory over the Bearcats.
“They just outplayed us in overtime,” Dempsey said. “We had a couple shots go in and out and missed a free throw late … so we had our chances to win.”
On Saturday, sophomore forward George Tinsley made a return to form after an inconsistent season thus far. The sophomore started the engine for the Bearcats, scoring their first eight points and totaling 12 in the first half alone, putting the home side up 35-29 by halftime.
“[Tinsley] wants to finish strong,” Dempsey said. “I thought today he came out and made a statement that he was really driven to finish the season strong. He always has energy.”
After halftime, the energized Binghamton side continued to increase its scoring output with Tinsley at the forefront of its offense. Tinsley tallied 16 points by the final buzzer while Bruce covered the Bearcats on the defensive end, earning six rebounds and four blocks. BU ultimately won 65-44, holding New Hampshire to the lowest-scoring total of any AE team against Binghamton since January 2014.
“We’ve already beaten the top team in the league so we know that when we play well we can do it,” Dempsey said. “But we haven’t had a win in a while. Both have been against top-four teams in the league, so that’s good for our confidence.”
Binghamton’s sudden spell of form was partly due to the energy from the bench.
“The energy we brought is probably the best energy we’ve had all year,” Tinsley said. “The bench has got to be into it, the bench has got to be like the crowd.”
After splitting the series with UNH, Binghamton will next face off against NJIT on Saturday, Feb. 6 and Sunday, Feb 7. The start time remains to be determined, but the games will be played at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.