On Saturday, the Binghamton men’s basketball team broke a three-game losing streak away against UMass Lowell on the road. The 78-64 win placed the Bearcats in a three-way tie for second place in the America East (AE) with just three games to play.
“Anytime you can get a win in our league, we value it, especially being on the road,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “The first 10 minutes I didn’t think we were aggressive enough, we weren’t rebounding the ball where we needed to rebound. But I think in that last 10 minutes of the first half, we really ramped up the defense and offensively I thought we really shared the ball and played as a team, and that’s what really helped us get the [win] today.”
Despite trailing 24-15 midway through the first half, the Bearcats (11-13, 8-7 AE) stayed competitive with the River Hawks (13-13, 5-9 AE) thanks to an 11-2 scoring run. A layup from sophomore guard Kellen Amos sparked the run, allowing BU to gain a two-point lead at the end of the period. The Bearcats shot 79 percent in the second half which secured their 14-point victory over UMass Lowell.
“We emphasize sharing the ball, and I thought the last two days in practice, especially after Albany, I thought we did a really good job of that,” Sanders said. “When we’re able to pass the ball to guys that are open instead of shooting bad shots or shooting when you have two guys on you, it all contributes to a good offensive night.”
Sophomore guard John McGriff contributed to BU’s success, posting a season-high scoring performance with 21 points on 9-14 shooting. McGriff scored 15 of his points in the second period, a big part of the Bearcats’ 44-point scoring half.
“I thought [McGriff] played well, he did a good job of getting in and out of the game,” Sanders said. “He’s still dealing with that little ankle issue, but I thought he defended really well. I think when [McGriff] is locked in defensively I think it helps him offensively. And his shot was going down tonight, and when his shot is going down, you can’t really back up off of him. When you come close to him he can get by anybody. I thought he did a really good job having that balance today.”
The Bearcats displayed a strong team performance with four players scoring in double digits, including junior guard Dan Petcash, who dropped 19 points on 80 percent shooting from the field. Petcash also went 3-3 from behind the arc and grabbed five rebounds to pair with his efficient scoring.
“[Petcash] was awesome on both sides of the ball,” Sanders said. “[Petcash] is one of our better perimeter defenders, and I thought he did a really really good job tonight on whoever he was guarding. And offensively he was aggressive. We try to get [Petcash] to be more offensive and take more shots, and today I thought he did that — open threes, drives, post-ups.”
Amos and junior guard Jacob Falko put up 12 and 10 points, respectively, as junior forward Ogheneyole Akuwovo added seven rebounds to complete the Bearcats’ season sweep of the River Hawks. Defensively, BU was able to snatch six steals and send back five blocks while holding the River Hawks to 23.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
The Bearcats now move into their final three games of conference play before the playoffs. Their next matchup is against Vermont which currently sits at the top of the AE standings.
“[Vermont] is the benchmark you measure your team up to,” Sanders said. “We’re gonna come out competing, I didn’t think we competed at a high level the last game we played them. I think if we share the ball the way we shared the ball today, we’ll put ourselves in the position to be successful.”
The Bearcats are scheduled to faceoff against the Catamounts on Wednesday, Feb. 23. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.