The Binghamton men’s basketball team hosted its final regular season game against UMBC on Tuesday night — with a chance to secure a home playoff game in the America East (AE) tournament. The Bearcats were downed by the Retrievers on the road in their first matchup this year and looked to get revenge, as a win would mean the program’s first time hosting a postseason contest in 14 years. After a hard-fought overtime battle from both sides, UMBC ended up on top once again, defeating BU 70-67.
“We were never out of the game,” said Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders. “Even though we weren’t able to score on offense, we were holding them defensively, we were guarding. Throughout the game, I thought we did a good job of that.”
BU (12-17, 8-8 AE) started off its season finale slow offensively, netting just a single 3-pointer from senior guard Jacob Falko in the first six minutes of action. UMBC (18-13, 8-8 AE), on the other hand, went on a scoring flurry — putting up 13 points in that same time — and jumped out to a quick double-digit advantage. The Bearcats eventually added to their score, but the Retrievers kept them at a distance as Binghamton remained trailing 18-9 with 10 minutes remaining in the half.
“I thought we started super nervous,” Sanders said. “I wasn’t sure how we were gonna come out. If we were gonna have a lot of energy or be overly excited, or if we were gonna be nervous.”
BU’s offensive output improved in the latter half of the frame as a six-point turnaround capped off by a Falko breakaway dunk brought the game to within three points. Junior guard Armon Harried and graduate student forward Miles Gibson added to the hosts’ run with two consecutive baskets, giving Binghamton its first lead of the game with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. The Bearcats took control of the game on both ends of the floor as the first half came to a close, and they held the lead 24-23 entering the break.
Binghamton’s defense allowed no UMBC baskets in the final seven minutes of the period, and staged a 9-0 run during that time. BU also held the visitors to just 1-13 shooting from beyond the arc in the entirety of the half.
“Guys had unbelievable energy of chasing guys off screens, particularly [Harried] did a really good job,” Sanders said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well, but he did a really good job on our [defensive] end of guarding guys … We knew [UMBC] was gonna shoot a lot of threes. One for 13, we felt pretty good about that.”
Both sides exchanged scores early in the second half, but UMBC would regain the lead after a 3-pointer. The hosts initiated another lead change after senior guard Dan Petcash drilled one from beyond the arc. However, the Retrievers briefly ended this back-and-forth effort, taking the game into their hands and putting together an 8-0 run to take a five-point advantage. UMBC and BU nearly doubled their first-half scores just 10 minutes into the second, as the score stood at 49-44 in the visitor’s favor.
“You gotta execute,” Sanders said. “We talk about execution all the time and if you don’t execute at this level, people make you pay, and that’s what happened today. We have to understand that we have to execute no matter if it’s the first 15 minutes or the last 20 seconds.”
Despite falling behind, Binghamton stormed back over the following minutes, staging an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to one. Despite falling behind again, another 3-pointer from Petcash kept the hosts close. Soon after, Falko drove in for a contact layup to retie the contest at 57 with two minutes remaining. The Bearcat added two more baskets to take a three-point lead with 22 seconds left. However, an immediate UMBC 3-pointer on the other end knotted the score again. Ultimately, Falko had a chance to seal the game at the buzzer, but the senior was off on his mark as the game went to overtime with the score tied at 62.
“[UMBC] got away from us in the second half, hit a couple [threes],” Sanders said. “But that last one that shouldn’t have happened coming down in transition … We definitely, in that situation, wanna foul up three [points].”
The Retrievers were on the board first in the extra period, taking a quick four-point lead until Petcash found himself open in the corner and drilled his third 3-pointer to swing the Bearcats back into striking distance. The hosts then found themselves trailing by three with 2.6 seconds left on the clock and possession under the basket. Petcash created an open look in the corner but was unable to convert on the tying attempt as BU fell 70-67.
“The good thing about now is that it doesn’t really matter what happened in the past,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t matter that [UMBC] won two games. It all depends on how we’re gonna go down there and play on Saturday.”
Binghamton will face off against UMBC once again on Saturday, March 4 in the quarterfinals of the AE tournament. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.