On Saturday, the Binghamton men’s basketball team continued its winning start to the season, going on the road to play Marist in the second game of the 2022-23 campaign. The matchup was close throughout both halves, but the Bearcats found themselves on top with productive offensive play in crucial moments, seeing out a tight 78-75 victory.
“I think what [winning] does is give us confidence,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “It’s hard to win games at this level, especially our team. We’re trying to build a winning culture here. So the more games you can win, even if you don’t play great, when you win those games there’s a lot of things you can learn.”
BU (2-0) and Marist (1-1) both came into this game off the back of season-opening wins, with the Red Foxes’ initial result being much tighter than the traveling team’s 87-56 rout against Cazenovia. A similar offensive output from Binghamton was replicated despite the closer score, with nine of its 10 players getting on the scoreboard. Three Bearcats put up double-digit efforts. In addition, BU shot 48.2 percent from the field as well as nailing seven of its 16 three-point attempts on the game.
“I thought we came out and did the things we needed to do to get a win,” Sanders said. “We wanted to definitely put some pressure on [Marist], not give their shooters the ability to get open shots. In their first game, they were 11-for-21 from three, so we really wanted to take away that.”
The first half, even in its initial moments, set the tone for the game in its entirety, as neither team had more than a three-point lead in the first 14 minutes. Three-pointers from junior guard Armon Harried and senior guard Jacob Falko kept the Bearcats in the game early on, but several scoring runs from the Red Foxes kept it close. Twelve minutes into the first period, junior forward Tariq Balogun tied the game at 20 with a dunk off of a loose ball, sparking a 9-2 scoring run from BU. Marist kept it close with free throws down the stretch, but a pair of layups from sophomore guard Matt Solomon and Falko in the waning minutes gave the Bearcats a 37-30 lead heading into the break.
“We have a bunch of guys on our team that can score,” Sanders said. “I was just trying to emphasize to our guys about playing the right way, sharing the ball, moving the ball. I thought early on we held the ball a little too much, and we were focusing too much on trying to beat one guy instead of moving the ball around the perimeter to create some opportunities, but I thought we did a better job in the second half. But I think our team is going to be so different this year because there’s going to be so many different guys from game to game who are going to be our leading scorer.”
After Binghamton’s run at the end of the first half, Marist was forced to respond. An 8-1 outburst for the Red Foxes out of the halftime gates tied the game up at 38. Their momentum was short-lived, however, as graduate student forward Miles Gibson responded with a pair of jumpers that sparked a 22-9 run. Falko and Gibson accounted for the bulk of the run’s scoring, combining for 17 of BU’s 23 points. The Red Foxes clawed their way back into the thick of it, staging a run that brought them within five points of the Bearcats. However, their late comeback was quelled by a senior guard Dan Petcash jumper in the dying minutes, along with several free throws that guided BU to its eventual three-point victory.
Falko and Gibson led Binghamton in scoring with 19 points each, as Petcash followed behind with 11 in his first game of the year. Although Falko and Gibson combined for 38 points, the pairs’ offensive output shined in the second half where they scored a combined 26 points.
“What [Falko and Gibson] brought to the table yesterday, we needed that,” Sanders said. “[Falko] created for himself and he created for others. I thought he did a really good job running at point guard, and [Gibson] at one point just took over the game offensively for us.”
BU will continue its road trip when it travels to Maryland on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the XFinity Center in College Park, Maryland.