Coming into Wednesday night’s matchup against Vermont, the Binghamton men’s basketball team held the position of third place in the America East (AE) conference. Despite falling behind early on, the Bearcats kept pace with the Catamounts for a majority of the game — but fell behind late and dropped the contest 81-70.
“I definitely thought we competed,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “Just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to come away with the win.”
To open the game, Vermont (18-10, 12-2 AE) blitzed BU (12-15, 8-6 AE) with an 8-0 run in the first minute and a half. The Bearcats eventually got on the board when senior forward Taveion White connected on a layup. Another 7-0 run by the Catamounts made it 15-2 until graduate student forward Miles Gibson hit a mid-range jumper which sparked a 12-0 Binghamton run to tie the game up at 15. Senior guard Dan Petcash and junior guard Armon Harried hit consecutive 3-pointers during the run, catapulting the Bearcats back into the game.
“There’s still a lot of basketball left to play, so you can’t give up in that situation,” Sanders said. “Our guys don’t give up. They always keep fighting, but the problem is you let a team get up by that much and put yourself in a deficit, and now you have to fight and come back. If we played that way from the beginning, we would’ve been able to give ourselves a lead.
Both teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half. Petcash connected on an and-one layup and graduate student guard Christian Hinckson hit a 3-pointer followed by another three by senior guard Jacob Falko. Vermont, however, would not back down despite BU shooting 53.6 percent from the field in the first half.
At the end of the first half, Gibson led the Bearcats with 10 points on an efficient 5-for-7 shooting. Petcash and Hinckson both added eight points apiece as Binghamton entered halftime down 41-37.
“I thought we were playing together,” Sanders said. “We were finding, looking for each other, moving the ball. [Gibson] made some really good individual plays in terms of little fadeaway jumpers. We shared the ball and when we do that, we get good shots.”
Gibson opened up the scoring in the second half with another turnaround mid-range jumper. After more back-and-forth play between the two sides, Falko hit a deep 3-pointer to give the Bearcats their first lead since the first half. Gibson followed it up with a three of his own to give BU a five-point cushion, its largest of the game. After giving up a 7-0 run and falling behind by two points, Falko hit another 3-pointer to go up one.
“[Vermont] has been a dominant program,” Sanders said. “We’re not playing against what they’ve done in the past, so we’re coming out to play the team that’s in front of us, and that’s what we have to focus on. Our guys should be confident.”
With under five minutes left in regulation, the hosts were able to gain a nine-point advantage. Despite going down, Petcash connected from beyond the arc to bring the Bearcats back within six points. Now down by nine with under a minute to play, Falko drove into the lane and hit an and-one layup to bring Binghamton back down six. Vermont, however, iced the game with five unanswered free throws to secure the 81-70 victory.
“[Vermont’s] a good offensive team, so they’re gonna score the ball,” Sanders said. “We just gotta make them do the things we want them to do. Stick to our game plan … Just gotta do what we do, make them play the game we want to play and we’ll be better for it next time.”
Despite the loss, BU shot 45.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc on 18 attempts. Gibson led the Bearcats in scoring, finishing with 23 points and was followed by Falko who added 17 of his own.
“I thought early on [Gibson and Falko] did a really good job of sharing the ball, getting their teammates involved,” Sanders said. “[Gibson] made some really good individual plays … he shot the ball well, took good shots. Him and [Falko] had good days.”
BU will return home for its next game against Maine on Saturday, Feb. 25. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center in Vestal, New York.