After a contested first half that saw both teams go on double-digit runs, the Binghamton men’s basketball team took a 16-point lead in the second half. For the next 12 minutes, that lead would dwindle before Columbia’s late-game surge sent the matchup to overtime. After being outscored 16-8 in the five-minute period, the Bearcats dropped their second game of the season 85-77.
“We had a ton of possessions defensively, where we couldn’t get stops,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “Offensively, I thought our offense got kind of complacent. We got passive. I think we were playing more not to lose rather than to win.”
During Columbia’s 20-4 run in the final 12 minutes of regulation, Binghamton went without making a field goal and failed to score at all in the closing six minutes of the half. During the stretch, the Lions slowly chipped away at BU’s lead and only hit one three-pointer.
“I think we started to watch the score and when you play like that and the team starts to get momentum, it’s kind of a domino effect,” Sanders said. “I didn’t think we handled the pressure well either, I think they sped us up.”
With 21 ticks to go in regulation time, Columbia squared up and drove to the basket being met by junior forward Taveion White. White teed it up and blocked the reverse layup giving BU one last chance. Sophomore guard John McGriff was handed the keys to the offense but his jumper from just inside the three-point line was tipped and fell short, sending the game to overtime.
“Looking back at it, it’s probably not the right decision,” Sanders said. “But again it’s a learning experience. [McGriff is] a guy that we feel that can compete right in front of him off the dribble. Would I like to have seen him try to get to the basket and maybe get a final score? Yeah. But that’s the shot he took, and then as I said, we’ll learn from it, we’ll get better from it. So when we end that situation again, we’ll make a better decision.”
The drought finally ended 21 seconds into the overtime period as junior forward George Tinsley slid through the defense giving BU the lead back. That was the first field goal in 12 minutes and would be the only field goal over a 16-minute span. The lead was short-lived, however, as over the next three minutes, Columbia went on a 12-0 run, taking an 81-71 lead with just over a minute left. BU was unable to cut the lead down, completing Columbia’s comeback win.
“I don’t think we executed the way we needed to close out the game,” Sanders said. “Again, [Columbia] made some good plays, they made some tough shots. So you gotta you got to give them credit.”
Early on the Bearcats looked to be in full control. In the first five minutes of the game, a pair of fast-break layups accompanied by three three-pointers, two from junior guard Tyler Bertram, earned BU a quick 15-2 lead. However, the Lions clawed back thanks to five-straight made threes, going on a 17-1 run and taking a 21-18 lead.
“Those five threes should have never happened,” Sanders said. “That was something that we talked about at halftime — knowing your scout and knowing the guys that you’re guarding. If a guy is a shooter, don’t give him an opportunity to shoot.”
After a short break, Bertram subbed back in and continued his hot start, accounting for Binghamton’s next 10 points. The junior finished 7-10 from the three-point arc and scored a career-high 29 points. At one point in the first half, his then-18 points accounted for half of BU’s total score.
“He doesn’t lack the work, he does the work right,” Sanders said. “So it’s good that the shots fell for him tonight. But I’m pretty sure he would rather have a win than those shots go down.”
To start the second, Bertram added two more threes, fueling a 15-0 BU run that led to a 59-46 lead six minutes into the second. At the Bearcat’s biggest lead, 51 of their 65 points were from Tinsley, Bertram and McGriff. Ultimately, Tinsley dropped in 14 points and McGriff added another 12. The Lions had lost their previous 15 games dating back to 2019.
“I told the guys we can’t hang our heads,” Sanders said. “And I thought we came out and we were ready to play. Now it’s just about we got to take our execution to another level. And I think that’s the main thing we need to focus on now.”
The Bearcats return to action against University of Connecticut on Saturday, November 20. Tipoff is scheduled for noon at the XL Center in Storrs, Connecticut.