On Saturday, the Binghamton men’s basketball team continued its road trip as they faced off against No. 23 UConn. After getting an early 7-4 lead, Binghamton didn’t lead again for the rest of the game, dropping its third loss of the season 87-63.
“I felt we did a good job competing,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “They were bigger than us, more physical, but overall I’m happy with the way we competed. We didn’t go out there and just roll over, we put up a fight.”
After taking an early 9-7 lead, UConn (4-0) outscored BU (1-3) 26-7 over the next 10 minutes. The home team’s bench was what sparked the run as they scored 25 first-half points alone. The Bearcats struggled to score shooting 28.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. They were unable to stay competitive, and the Huskies went into halftime leading 37-22.
“I did think that we had quite a few open shots that we didn’t convert on,” Sanders said. “When you play against a team like Connecticut, you’ve got to be able to take advantage of all of those kinds of situations.”
The Bearcats fared better in the second half. They improved on almost every scoring front, shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from behind the arc. Although BU’s offense came alive, its defense continued to struggle into the second period. UConn shot 57.6 percent from the field and 75 percent from three to solidify its 24-point victory. The Huskies outscored BU 50-41 in the second half.
“I think we’ve got to continue to get focused defensively,” Sanders said. “I don’t think we need to get into scoring battles and try and outscore people. I think we’ve been doing a solid job defensively, and we’ve got to continue on that side. We need to play it out at a faster pace, and when we do get turnovers and when we do get rebounds we’ve got to be able to push the ball.”
Binghamton’s biggest contribution offensively came from junior guard Tyler Bertram. Bertram went into this matchup off the back of a career-high 29-point game against Columbia but finished the matchup against UConn as the Bearcats’ leading scorer with 15 points. He went 5-10 from the field and 3-6 from 3-point range.
“I thought the first few games [Bertram] wasn’t playing to his strengths, he’s a shooter,” Sanders said. “So I think the first thing he needs to be thinking about is his shot. I think the first few games he was thinking a lot about putting the ball on the floor trying to make plays. I wasn’t really worried about [Bertram], but I’m happy he’s seeing the ball go to the net, and that helps us as a team, and it also helps his confidence.”
Junior forward Ogheneyole Akuwovo matched his career-high 12 points and five rebounds to complement Bertram’s tally. The Bearcats are now 1-3 overall, an improvement on last year’s start of six straight losses, with their next opponents being Division III Hartwick College.
“I was telling the guys we’ve got to respect every opponent we play against,” Sanders said. “We’re not good enough to think that we’re better than any team, doesn’t matter what level. I think if we keep that focus, we’ll be okay.”
The Bearcats return home to play Hartwick College on Sunday, Nov. 28. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.