On Saturday, the Binghamton men’s basketball team hosted New Hampshire in its first America East (AE) matchup against the Wildcats this season. After playing catch-up for the majority of the game, the Bearcats dropped their second match in a row with a final score of 69-60.
“I didn’t think we were bad defensively, but I think offensively we gotta be able to generate more than 60 points, especially at home,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “In these games when offense is hard to come by, when a team is up six or seven points, that’s a lot of points. And we couldn’t just get that stop when we needed it.”
After losing the tipoff, Binghamton (10-12, 7-6 AE) surrendered the lead early as New Hampshire (11-10, 6-6 AE) jumped to a quick 7-3 advantage in the first two minutes. UNH scored on each of its first three possessions. The Bearcats swiftly responded, tying the game at seven points after a 4-0 run over the next two minutes.
“Defensively it wasn’t bad, but we couldn’t come up with the rebounds,” Sanders said. “And that was the number one thing on the scouting report.”
With 12 minutes left in the first half, a 3-point shot from junior guard Jacob Falko paired with a mid-range jumper from sophmore guard John McGriff gave BU a 12-11 lead. This lead was short-lived, however, due to a Wildcat layup on the next possession sparking a 12-0 run over a three-minute stretch where UNH dropped in five unanswered baskets, including two 3-pointers.
“We couldn’t get a score when we needed it, we couldn’t get a defensive stop when we needed it and that’s the key,” Sanders said. “We thought it was a team that we would be able to guard. But once you guard them and you stop them you gotta rebound the ball.”
Sanders emphasized offensive rebounding as an important factor against New Hampshire. In the first half, BU allowed eight offensive rebounds compared to its one as well as 9 second chance points compared to its two.
“We stopped them on a majority of possessions and then they get an offensive rebound and all of a sudden they make a tough shot,” Sanders said. “But if you rebound the ball in the first place you don’t put yourself in that position.”
The Wildcats ended the game with 10 more rebounds than the Bearcats, including six more offensive rebounds.
Although BU trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, the team was able to cut the lead to just three going into the second. With 3:49 to go in the period, the Bearcats generated a 9-3 run sparked by six straight points from junior forward Bryce Beamer and capped off by a layup from junior guard Hakon Hjalmarsson with five ticks to go.
“[Beamer] and [Hjalmarsson] came in and gave us a nice spark off the bench,” Sanders said. “[Beamer] has been doing it in practice and that’s why he’s getting an opportunity. He has to keep doing that. He gets really pumped and fiery, and we need that sometimes.”
The late run continued into the start of the second period as a few quick scores from the Bearcats netted them a three-point lead with 17:19 remaining in the game. However, the Wildcats immediately took the lead back after two straight 3-pointers and an 11-0 run. BU remained behind for the remainder of the game.
“The crowd was just waiting for us to go on a run so they could get behind us and get going,” Sanders said. “We did it a little bit when we came out in the second half, and then we take two or three bad shots and they come down and erase the board and they punish us for it.”
The Bearcats ended the game with 24 bench points including six from Beamer and nine from Hjalmarsson. Falko led the team in scoring with 13 and McGriff was a close second with 11 while also dishing out five assists. McGriff played a total of 34 minutes in his first game back after sitting out against Vermont last Wednesday.
“I thought [McGriff] played well, especially in that first half, he was solid, he was dishing the ball off,” Sanders said. “One thing we try and get [McGriff] to do is be a facilitator and I thought he did a good job of that today.”
After Saturday’s loss, BU will remain at home for its next conference battle against Albany on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.