You can draw positives from losses, and that’s just what Tommy Dempsey did after the Binghamton men’s basketball team relinquished a 14-point second-half lead and fell to Radford, 69-63, Saturday at the Events Center.
“What I needed to see today was a response to a poor performance [against Navy],” Dempsey said. “And I thought that was very much there from the opening tip. Unfortunately, we didn’t close the game, but we were ready, we were focused, we were energetic and I thought we played really good basketball most of the day.”
After building a lead that peaked at 14-points with 17:58 to go in the second half, the Bearcats (1-4) blinked, and suddenly found themselves up by only five with 13 minutes to go. After trading baskets a few more times and the teams breaking even at 55-55, BU blinked again, and was down seven with 4:40 to play.
Binghamton turnovers and missed shots in the second half translated into easy transition baskets for Radford (3-1), keying its quick comeback.
The Bearcats also struggled offensively in the second half. From 17:58 until 0:44, BU managed just 16 points.
“I think we just missed easy shots. We missed our free throws,” freshman forward Nick Madray said. “It was a really winnable game.”
Over that same span, the Highlanders scored 38 points.
“They were making great shots” freshman forward Magnus Richards said. “They were attacking us. They came out in the second half and did a lot of positive things. I don’t think it was anything that we didn’t do, but I think that they were getting some good bounces.”
While both Binghamton and Radford committed seven turnovers in the first, BU committed nine in the second to the Highlanders’ six.
After only managing to shoot 24.1 percent from the field in the first half, the Highlanders posted a 12-for-22 (54.5 percent) clip in the second that allowed them to surmount the 14-point deficit.
Many of the good things Dempsey saw came in the first half. BU carried a 37-28 advantage into the break, and was led by a spotless performance from Richards. The 6-foot-7 forward went 4 of 4 from the field in the first half as he was doing everything right in the paint. He also pulled down five rebounds, four of which came off the offensive glass.
“I told myself that I’d focus more on just being aggressive,” Richards said. “I felt like I wasn’t in it the beginning of the season, the first four games. [Today], I tried to come out and just give energy.”
While Richards has gotten off to a slow start this season, Dempsey attributes it to the normal growing pains associated with a freshman adjusting to college ball. Still, Dempsey says his young forward is capable of these types of performances on a regular basis, and the Bearcats will be reliant upon him when conference play rolls around.
“If we’re going to be better this year, we really need him to step up,” Dempsey said. “He’s a very capable player. He was a kid who I was so excited for when he committed to come here and I think you saw some of the reasons why today… he showed the type of player he can be and we’ll need to see more of that.”
Another positive draw from the loss was Binghamton’s success inside. The Bearcats outscored Radford 22-20 in the paint, a point of emphasis for the Bearcats in this past week’s practices.
“We have good post players, we’re just not utilizing them,” Madray said. “That was really a focus throughout this week. Coach was telling us to push it in the paint and whenever they didn’t, Coach would get on them.”
BU also out-rebounded the Highlanders, 37-36.
“We’ve been outscored by a pretty drastic amount in the paint, we’ve been getting outrebounded,” Dempsey said. “Those were two things that were really the focus of the game, to establish ourselves inside and rebound the ball. We did those things, we just didn’t win the game.”
Sophomore guard Jordan Reed couldn’t find a rhythm in the contest, only making 4-of-15 shots from the field and 8-of-15 from the foul line. While he finished with a team-high 16 points, he also committed three turnovers.
Madray finished 5 of 6 from the field for 13 points.
Radford was led by sophomore forward Javonte Green, who scored a game-high 17 points, including an 11-for-13 mark from the charity stripe.
The Bearcats will try and build off today’s performance on Nov. 26 when they’re set to face Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks (1-3) earned their first win of the season on Saturday after slipping by Fairleigh Dickson, 67-63.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Yanitelli Center.