On Saturday afternoon, the Binghamton men’s basketball team traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to take on La Salle for the first time in over 10 years. With 10 seconds on the clock, the Bearcats found themselves down three with the ball. BU nearly made it two-straight heroic finishes, but graduate student guard Christian Hinckson’s game-tying shot fell short as time expired, handing BU a 65-62 loss.
“I thought we competed well,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “I thought we came out focused and ready to play. We’ve beaten ourselves with the little things that we’re not doing.”
After scoring six points in the final 5.6 seconds in a stunning win over Columbia, BU (3-3) looked to stay in the win column against La Salle (3-3). Junior guard John McGriff got the scoring started for the Bearcats, making a pair of jumpers to put four quick points on the board. Not long after, Hinckson broke down the Explorer defense and laid one in, forcing La Salle to call a timeout less than two minutes into the game. Coming out with BU leading 6-2, the Explorers responded with a 10-0 run to take the lead.
“Our transition defense the last two games has been bad,” Sanders said. “We score a basket and then all of a sudden they take it out of the net and throw it down a court for a layup … stuff like that, you can’t have it.”
The Bearcats continued to struggle defensively as the Explorers went on another 11-6 run, hitting multiple three-pointers in the process and increasing their lead to eight. Freshman guard Masud Stewart stopped the bleeding as he drove down the lane, scoring a layup over two La Salle defenders. BU grabbed the momentum, scoring six straight, with contributions from junior forward Tariq Balogun and senior guard Jacob Falko. The Explorers quickly extended their lead back up to 11 points with a 9-0 run and entered halftime up 36-27 over the Bearcats
BU came out of the gates hot in the second half, starting the period on a 7-2 run and cutting the La Salle lead to just four. The scoring didn’t stop there as the Bearcats continued to chip away at the Explorer lead. In addition, Binghamton made plays defensively as Falko intercepted a La Salle pass, resulting in a fast-break slam that got BU within four at the 10-minute mark. The Bearcats built off their momentum, making it a one-possession game off a Balogun layup and free throw.
“We shared the ball a lot better in the second half,” Sanders said. “We were able to get the ball inside the paint and every time we get the ball inside the paint, good things happen for us.”
With La Salle leading 51-50, Balogun posterized an Explorer defender and was fouled in the process. After completing the and-one, the Bearcats regained the lead 53-51. The final minutes saw several lead changes as both teams continued to go toe-to-toe. With 10 seconds left, the Bearcats found themselves down 65-62, needing a three to even the score. BU’s comeback fell short as Hinckson missed a game-tying three-ball as the final buzzer sounded. Despite the Explorers’ struggles in the second half, they held off BU, securing the victory.
“You lose a game by three points and the other team had 13 more possessions than you, that’s a lot of points that you have an opportunity to score,” Sanders said. “We can’t allow teams to just have that many more possessions and expect that we are going to win games.”
Three separate Bearcats scored in double figures in the loss. Falko captained Binghamton as he filled up the stat sheet with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. Balogun was not far behind him with 16 points and four rebounds. Hinckson added 11 points and grabbed a season-high nine rebounds.
“I thought [Falko and Balogun] had a really good chemistry together, the way we were playing the ball screens,” Sanders said. “We’ve been trying to get [Balogun] more involved and I think he did a really good job today … when we needed a big rebound he was able to get it.”
The Bearcats struggled to take care of the basketball, ending the game with 21 turnovers which resulted in 17 points for the Explorers. La Salle had 10 turnovers.
“We can’t have 21 turnovers, that’s the bottom line,” Sanders said. “A lot of the things happening to us are things we can control. We’ve got to continue to trust each other and play together as a team.”
BU will return home to kick off a three-game home-stand with its first match on Nov. 30 against Loyola University Maryland. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.