SYRACUSE, N.Y. — For five minutes, the Binghamton men’s basketball team was unfazed by No. 4 Syracuse’s overwhelming size and talent.
But then the Orange (9-0) pressed.
“It was what changed the complexion of the game for sure,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said.
The Bearcats (2-7) raced off to an 11-3 start in their 93-65 loss tonight at the Carrier Dome, but Syracuse’s swarming defense effectively made inbounds treacherous, forced traps and caused turnovers that would quickly set aside Binghamton’s fantasy.
After Syracuse freshman guard Tyler Ennis hit a 3-pointer to open the game, freshman guard Marlon Beck II answered right back with a 3 of his own with the shot clock winding down to ignite the Bearcat offense. Sophomore guard Jordan Reed converted two foul shots, and freshman forward Nick Madray buried consecutive baskets from downtown to put the Bearcats up 11-3.
“I thought we were focused, we were ready, we were excited, we came out and got off to the good start,” Dempsey said.
“We came out firing,” Reed added. “[Madray] had a couple of shots. I got a couple of foul shots. [Beck] hit a 3. It felt good. I was like, ‘Jeez, I hope this happens the whole night.’”
But sophomore forward Michael Gbinije drilled a 3 to bring Syracuse to within 11-6, and the ensuing timeout by the Bearcats would allow the Orange to implement their full-court press.
Binghamton’s early 11-0 run was upstaged by Syracuse’s subsequent 18-0 spurt that stretched the score to 21-11 with 12:48 remaining in the first.
Unable to figure out Syracuse’s zone defense and press, BU found itself in a 24-point hole at the break, 54-30.
With the game beyond doubt, Syracuse head coach Jim Boheim pulled his starters late in the second half, and the Bearcats were only outscored by Syracuse by four points, 39-35, in the final 20 minutes.
“I give [Binghamton] a lot of credit. They moved the ball, they played well. They did a lot of good things,” Boheim said. “We’re bigger and stronger than they are, but they did all the things you need to do to try to be successful. The press hurt them a little bit, or it would have been a much closer game.”
Binghamton’s starting lineup, which is composed of four freshmen and a sophomore, received most of the minutes tonight, as Dempsey used only seven players until he emptied the bench in the final minute. For such a young team, a crack at one of the top contenders in the nation is a powerful learning tool.
“After they opened the lead up with their pressure in the first half, they opened up the big lead by halftime [but] there was no quit in us,” Dempsey said. “I don’t think we hung our heads. I told them we’ve got to play like brothers. I thought through a tough stretch in that first half we never wavered and we kept coming at them.”
Syracuse’s hounding press allowed Binghamton plenty of chances at the foul line. While the Bearcats only mustered a 66 percent clip from the charity stripe, they got to the line 32 times.
“To get to the free throw line 32 times against Syracuse, I think that’s impressive,” Dempsey said. “I think that’s a sign that our guys were trying to enforce their will on the game as well.”
Reed led all scorers tonight with 26 points, including 13-of-14 free throw shooting, and added seven rebounds.
“[Reed] picked his spots really well in transition and just played a great game,” Dempsey said.
Beck contributed 14 points for Binghamton, while Madray chipped in with 11, including three 3-pointers.
For Syracuse, senior forward C.J. Fair led the way with 19 points, and redshirt sophomore guard Trevor Cooney nailed five 3-pointers en route to a 17-point performance.
Sophomore forwards Jerami Grant and Dajuan Coleman also finished in double figures for the Orange with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
“We’re not going to play another team of this caliber the rest of the year,” Dempsey said. “We look at our schedule now and I think we have a chance to really compete with everyone left on our schedule.”
Binghamton will next travel to West Long Branch, N.J. on Dec. 14 to face Monmouth.
Tipoff from the Multipurpose Activity Center is set for 7 p.m.