On Saturday afternoon, the Binghamton men’s basketball team hosted Maine in an America East (AE) rematch following BU’s victory earlier in the season. The Bearcats and Black Bears fought defensively throughout the first half, which resulted in BU holding a one-point lead going into the half. However, BU pulled away after building a 17-point lead which the Black Bears failed to surmount, resulting in a 69-60 win.
“I’m happy we won,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “It’s always tough to get wins, especially in a league like ours where there isn’t much separation between the teams.”
Both teams faced off against each other three weeks ago in Maine (4-18, 1-10 AE) where the game was more closely contested as BU (10-10, 7-4 AE) won by eight, but led by only two with less than three minutes to go. This time out was different, as the Bearcats were able to build upon a narrow lead from the first half to gain a 17-point surplus in the second, holding the Black Bears to 40.4 percent shooting for the game.
Binghamton’s struggle to score in the first half allowed Maine to stay competitive, as the Bearcats shot just 25.8 percent from the field. Despite their poor shooting, the Bearcats held Maine to 33.3 percent from the field and entered halftime with a thin 24-23 lead over the Black Bears.
“Maine played zone and a lot of times it makes the offensive team passive and that’s exactly what happened in the first half,” Sanders said. “Instead of attacking, we were passive … Our defense held us the whole game.”
In the second half, BU figured things out offensively, making six 3-pointers, doubling its output of three in the first half. The Bearcats also outrebounded the Black Bears 42-26 in the game, including 14 offensive rebounds which resulted in 14 second-chance points compared to Maine’s eight. The Bearcats were able to spread the scoring out with four players scoring in double digits, including junior guard Jacob Falko and junior forward George Tinsley.
Falko has been BU’s leading scorer, averaging 13.6 points for the Bearcats this season and posting 18 points against Maine. However, Tinsley stepped up off the bench, scoring 17 points off 6-7 shooting and hitting all three of his attempts from behind the arc. Tinsley also added five rebounds. The Bearcat’s production helped Binghamton outscore the Black Bears 31-2 in bench points.
“[Tinsley] wasn’t playing a lot of minutes for us early in the season,” Sanders said. “But as I’m always telling these guys, your opportunity will come, and when it comes you have to be prepared. [Tinsley] is a great teammate. He never complains, comes to practice, works hard. He is one of our hardest workers, if not our hardest worker, so he was prepared for when his opportunity came. Now he’s getting the opportunity to come in and he’s making the most of it.”
This win leaves the Bearcats with a conference record of 7-4, putting them second in the standings only behind the undefeated Catamounts. Binghamton’s seven conference wins are the most the program has seen since going 8-8 in 2009-2010. This victory also moves BU to three wins over .500 in AE play. Despite the Bearcats’ recent success, Sanders is adamant that he isn’t focused on the playoffs yet and that the team is focused on winning one game at a time to reach their goal.
“We were thinking next game is Vermont,” Sanders said. “We just prepare for whatever team we have. We’ve been talking about lately kind of like seeding and things like that, but early on in the season, we didn’t talk about that. Obviously now, the way the league is kind of stacked up, one loss and you drop three or four slots. So we started to talk about those things, but I think the most important thing is that we have to prepare for the team in front of us. Like the most important game is the next game on our schedule, and that’s how we prepare.”
After Saturday’s win, BU will travel to Vermont on Wednesday, Feb. 9 to take on the Catamounts. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vermont.