On Wednesday night, the Binghamton men’s basketball team began its five-game homestand with a match against Marist. The Bearcats were in a tie game by the end of the first half but could not match the Red Foxes’ second-half production, losing 64-51.
“We knew that Marist was going to be a physical team and I was telling the guys that you got to be able to match their physicality,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “I don’t think we did a good job of that.”
Turnovers were an issue for BU (2-6) as they coughed the ball up four times in as many minutes of play. Despite this, the Bearcats were able to take an early lead, getting multiple stops against the Red Foxes (4-4) and hitting all three of their shot attempts including two 3-pointers as Binghamton took an 8-4 lead.
With eight minutes to play in the first half, sophomore guard John McGriff slashed through the paint to the right side thanks to a screen from junior forward Ogheneyole Akuwovo. Akuwovo then rolled off the screen, cutting to the basket. McGriff passed the ball to Akuwovo, setting him up for a two-handed slam dunk. Sanders said that Akuwovo had an impact on the first half both offensively and defensively, tallying seven points, four rebounds and three blocks.
“I thought [Akuwovo] played well,” Sanders said. “It’s hard to talk about individual performances when the team didn’t perform well, but [Akuwovo] was solid for us.”
This dunk allowed BU to stretch its lead to seven points with eight minutes remaining in the first half, going up 19-12. In the remaining minutes, however, Marist went on a 12-5 run to tie the contest at 24 apiece. The Bearcats and Red Foxes were statistically similar after the first half, although Marist only had four turnovers compared to Binghamton’s nine.
“We always kill ourselves with turnovers,” Sanders said. “We spoke about closing out the half the right way … And sure enough, we say that and come out throwing the ball over the gym.”
At the start of the second half, the Bearcats and Red Foxes went back and forth trading baskets. Junior guard Tyler Bertram opened up the scoring with a mid-range shot from the corner, and on the very next possession, senior guard Christian Hinckson dropped a 3-pointer to get the Bearcats off to a three-point lead. However, that was the only field goal for BU for nearly six minutes. At the 10-minute mark, the Red Foxes took a 43-32 lead on a 17-3 run.
“We always talk about trying to limit team’s easy baskets,” Sanders said. “When you turn the ball over you give them the opportunity … it’s hard to win.”
Binghamton struggled getting shots to fall in the first 10 minutes of the second half, shooting 23.1 percent from the field. The Bearcats went down by as many as 12 before beginning to chip at the Marist lead, bringing the deficit to seven points with four minutes remaining in the second half. However, a timely Red Fox 3-pointer brought their lead back to 10 as Binghamton failed to get back in the competition. In the second half, BU turned the ball over nine times once again, bringing its game total to 18, double that of Marist.
“Every time we turned it over they punished us on the other side,” Sanders said. “It’s hard to win when you turn it over and you give the team a chance to go down and score easy baskets.”
The Bearcats are next scheduled to face Oneonta at home on Saturday, Dec. 11. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.