Though this season may be a fresh start for the Binghamton University men’s basketball team, winning games won’t come any easier than years previous.
The Bearcats, now 0-5, have learned that the hard way over recent weeks. They haven’t played a home game since their season opener on Nov. 12, and are coming off their worst defeat of the season, an 88-59 drubbing at the hands of now-No. 13 University of Missouri.
But with that loss now behind them, the Bearcats are set to return home to take on a 2-5 Army squad tomorrow night at the Events Center.
Like Binghamton, the Black Knights were picked as the cellar dweller of their conference in the preseason coaches poll. But not for a lack of experience.
Army returns seven of its 10 players who saw time in last season’s Nov. 23 matchup in West Point between the two teams, including four of its five starters. Army won that game 72-58.
Chretien Lukusa and Kyrie Sutton shouldered the scoring load for the otherwise offensively silent Bearcats. Lukusa finished with 22 while Sutton added 14, but no other player scored more than 10. Neither of those players are still on the team.
The team’s 58 total points may have been enough for Binghamton to win that game, if not for its defense allowing 34-plus points in each half. Army used an early 20-5 run to take the lead and never looked back.
As was true last year, the Bearcats will yet again need to play solid, consistent defense to have a chance on Saturday as the Black Knights have not skipped a beat on the offensive side of the ball.
In its Nov. 22 win over Bryant University, Army shot 15-for-36 from behind the arc, setting Academy records for 3-point attempts as well as attempts made.
According to BU head coach Mark Macon, communication on the defensive side of the ball has been at the forefront of the team’s efforts during practice this week.
More recently, Army fell to New Jersey Institute of Technology on Wednesday by one point. Though the loss proved to be the Black Knights’ fifth of the year, the team’s potent offensive attack remained on display for all to see.
Trailing by as many as 16 in the second half, Army stormed back on the strength of a 27-12 run for the remainder of the contest. Black Knights sophomore Josh Herbeck took the game’s final and potentially game-winning shot, but it rimmed out at the buzzer.
Herbeck’s 10 points per game rank second on the team behind junior Ella Ellis’ 15.6 points per game. The two have been the only ones to lead Army in scoring through the team’s first seven games.
But according to Macon, Binghamton’s hasn’t been thinking on stopping the duo so much as it has on itself.
“Our focus has been filling holes in the area of defense together,” he said. “You [stop Herbeck and Ellis] as a unit on defense knowing where those guys are.”
On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore Robert Mansell and freshman Ben Dickinson will look to continue in their roles as the team’s leading scorers. Mansell’s 15.2 points per game lead the team, trailed by Dickinson’s 15.
The Bearcats are set to play their first home game in nearly a month, something Macon said will feed into the team’s positive energy heading into tomorrow night’s 7 p.m. tip.
“I think it’s a good feeling because you are in the comforts of your own place,” he said. “I think we will play well and I’m looking for growth as well as a win.”