The Binghamton men’s basketball team has managed the program’s best start in America East (AE) conference play in 17 years so far this season, coming into their trip to Maine on Sunday. The Bearcats were looking to win their fifth straight game, but despite the Black Bears not having a conference win yet this season, the visitors were unable to take care of business on the road, losing 78-57.
“I thought [Maine] was way more physical than us,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “They forced us into a bunch of turnovers, which we’ve been doing a pretty good job of — not turning the ball over other than our last two games. That’s what stood out the most.”
BU (8-11, 4-2 AE) went down 5-0 early before senior guard Jacob Falko found a cutting junior guard Armon Harried for an easy rim rattler to put the visitors on the board. After stopping Maine (7-12, 1-5 AE) on the next possession, the Bearcats found graduate student guard Christian Hinckson in transition for a three to quickly tie the score up at five. Despite starting to get going on offense, the Bearcats struggled to control possession in the first 10 minutes, accumulating seven turnovers in that time. The Black Bears took advantage and climbed to a 23-8 lead.
“If you’re not getting shots at the basket because you’re turning it over, then it’s hard to get any kind of flow or momentum,” Sanders said. “I did think we were trying to play a little too much one-on-one early in the game, and not running stuff the way we need to run it.”
Harried finally put a stop to the Maine run with an and-one layup with just under nine minutes left in the half. Binghamton continued to chip away at its deficit for the remainder of the first, as graduate student forward Miles Gibson hit a mid-range jumper to bring the deficit down to eight. Despite cutting the lead to single digits, both sides went back-and-forth for the remainder of the frame. In the last minute, Hinckson dropped in two layups to bring BU into the half down 36-25.
“And then we compound [giving up transition baskets] with turnovers and giving [Maine] the opportunity to get out in transition to score easy baskets, it makes it worse for you,” Sanders said. “Especially when you’re not getting easy baskets. I kind of felt like we were lucky to be down only 11 at halftime.”
Binghamton opened the second half scoring with senior guard Dan Petcash hitting a corner 3-point shot. Petcash, who led the team in scoring on the day, followed that up with a drive into the lane for a layup to score the visitor’s first five points of the period.
“I thought [Petcash] was solid,” Sanders said. “I liked the way he drove the ball to the basket, and then I thought [senior forward Taveion White] played really hard. Got us some offensive rebounds and stuff like that, but other than that, we didn’t really have anybody else that could really get going.”
Turnovers were a theme again for the Bearcats in the second half as they gave up possession five times in the first 10 minutes. Additionally, finding consistent scoring was an issue as no player except for Petcash, who finished with 13, found themselves in the double-digits.
“I’m going to attribute a lot today to Maine,” Sanders said. “They played really well. They were more aggressive than we were. They were guarding us. This had more to do with the way Maine played and how aggressive they were … I just kind of felt like we thought we were going to show up and just win.”
Defensively, BU struggled to contain the Black Bear shooters from beyond the arc. The hosts had an efficient day, shooting 8-17 from three while Binghamton shot 2-13. Coming into this game, the Bearcats had an 8-0 record when outshooting their opponent from three and were 0-10 when their opponent outshoots them.
“We won four games in a row, and I think we were feeling good about ourselves,” Sanders said. “Sometimes you need to kind of come back down to Earth a little bit, and that’s what this game does. Now we gotta do everything to come out and play against a really good Vermont team.”
Binghamton returns home for the next matchup against Vermont on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.