On Wednesday, the Binghamton men’s basketball team traveled to Burlington for a chance to advance to the America East (AE) Championship final. Despite trailing by 12 at the half to No. 1 Vermont, BU was unable to stay competitive in the second period as UVM ran away with a 74-42 victory, ending the Bearcats’ season.

“I thought we came out ready to play,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “It was a manageable 12-point halftime deficit, I felt like that wasn’t that bad. We came out and cut it to eight points and then [Vermont] just went on another run and we never recovered. That’s why they’re the first-place team in the league.”

Two minutes in, BU (12-17, 8-10 AE) took its only lead of the game with a 3-pointer from sophomore guard John McGriff. Vermont (27-5, 17-1 AE) responded with a quick 8-0 run to take a 10-5 lead. However, the Bearcats stayed close to UVM early in the first, highlighted by a 3-pointer by senior guard Christian Hinckson that cut the deficit to one. That stay was short-lived for BU as UVM scored 10 straight points while the Bearcats went nearly five minutes without scoring. After that run, the Bearcats stopped the bleeding with two layups from Hinckson and a fadeaway 3-pointer from junior guard Tyler Bertram.

“We always tell our guys to stay confident,” Sanders said. “We just tried to try to explain to them that a lot of things that were happening, we were doing to ourselves like giving them open threes.”

With under three minutes until the break, the Catamounts knocked down a contested shot from deep to extend their lead to 17. Junior guard Jacob Falko responded on the next possession, driving past the defense and putting the ball through the bottom of the net. The Bearcat did not finish there, as with a minute to go, he pushed through the defense again and flipped in the driving layup while being fouled. Falko converted the and-one from the charity stripe as the Bearcats trailed 39-27 going into halftime.

“Fifteen of those [points] are things that we did we could have done better,” Sanders said. “That’s a different game, but that’s exactly what happens when you play Vermont. Because they’re so good offensively. They punish you for everything you do wrong.”

In the first half, the Catamounts converted on 53.3 percent of their shots, beating the Bearcats’ mark of 42.3 percent. Each team shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc, but UVM shot twice as many 3-pointers. Binghamton also conceded seven turnovers compared to the hosts’ one, resulting in Vermont outscoring BU 9-0 in points off turnovers for the half.

“Guys were trying to make plays,” Sanders said. “A lot of [the turnovers] were over dribbling and not passing the ball when they should pass the ball. They were trying to be aggressive, you don’t mind those aggressive turnovers.”

Binghamton started the second half scoring the first four points to cut its deficit to single digits. The momentum was short-lived, however, as Vermont piled onto its eight-point lead with a 17-3 run sparked by four offensive rebounds and a flurry of free throws. In the first 12 minutes of the half, Binghamton committed 11 fouls, leading to 11 shots from the line for UVM.

“That happened to us a lot this year where we put we put teams at the line and we give them the ability to score a free throw instead of making them score baskets,” Sanders said.

During the second half, the Bearcats went a full eight minutes without scoring a field goal. In that span, Vermont doubled its surplus from 11 to 22 as BU went 0-6 from the field. In the second half, Binghamton shot 27.8 percent from the field while missing all six attempts from beyond the arc, allowing Vermont to more than double BU’s tally in points, 35-15.

“You have to give [Vermont] credit for the defense that they played,” Sanders said. “It always has something to do with it. They make it tough, they’re physical.”

The Bearcats came into the season picked to finish last in the AE preseason coaches’ poll. However, in Sanders’ first year at the helm, the team was seeded sixth in the playoffs and won a road postseason game.

“I was telling the guys in the locker room that we can be disappointed, but in context, we did something that nobody expected us to do,” Sanders said. “We can be proud of that and then something we can build on … I want to thank all the fans, the students that came out and supported us throughout the year, that crowd seemed to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and it really, really helped us out.”