A glance at the stat sheet elicited a one-word response from Roland Brown.
“Damn,” said the senior forward, shaking his head with a bewildered smile plastered across his face.
The Binghamton men’s basketball team had just defeated Maine handily on Feb. 8, snapping an eight-game skid and pulling within one game of the eighth-place Black Bears. Brown had scored 17 points and snatched nine boards. He needed one more rebound to collect the first double-double of his career, and he knew it.
One month later, Brown is still in search of that elusive double-double. But the near miss against Maine served as a springboard for the best stretch of his college career, one that has coincided with the most successful six-game span in head coach Tommy Dempsey’s two years at Binghamton.
The Bearcats (7-22, 4-12 America East) will enter the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed and winners in three of their last six. They have competed with the league’s top teams, falling to No. 1 Vermont and No. 3 Hartford in overtime, and they are confident they can stage an upset of the Hawks (16-15, 10-6 AE) in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
“I feel like it’s our time,” Brown said at the team’s pre-tournament media day Wednesday.
Brown speaks quietly, but his tone shouldn’t be misconstrued as diffident. He firmly believes the Bearcats can bust the America East bracket and advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2009, when they proceeded to win the championship.
Though sophomore guard Jordan Reed has played at an elite level lately, Brown has been the unsung hero. He averaged 11.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in the last six regular season games, reaching double figures four times.
Brown had eclipsed the 10-point mark just five other times at the Division I level, but he has overcome adversity to provide a reliable post presence since a hip injury sidelined freshman forward Nick Madray for the season.
“It’s just knowing that it’s all coming to an end. I’ve been like pushing through pain and everything just so I could get to this moment so I could help my team as much as I can,” said Brown, whose knees have hampered him throughout his career. “I just want to end off at a good note. That’s it. I just want to end off great.”
Saturday could be the last time Brown and fellow seniors Rayner Moquete and Alex Ogundadegbe suit up for a college basketball game. Brown is determined to earn a chance to play again.
“After this we’re in the real world now — no more wonderworld,” Brown said. “So we want to go as far as possible, bring home the America East championship.”
Another factor drives Brown as well. Earlier in the season, he seldom logged minutes. He adopted a mentor’s role, teaching his younger teammates the ways of college basketball and guiding them through rough patches — of which Brown, a two-time transfer, had seen plenty.
He can make a direct impact as a starter now, but disrupting the natural balance of the conference tournament would also validate the effort he has exerted off the floor.
“We just want to be the ones to leave a mark to say that we brought back another America East championship. We’re hungry,” Brown said on behalf of his fellow seniors. “We do as much as we can to help the coaches and help our players to go on and move on from all the negativity [the 2009 scandal] that happened years ago and just bring home another championship.”
And for Brown, anything short of that championship will be a disappointment — like falling short of the double-double against Maine, only on a grander scale.
“I just want to go all the way. That would be a successful year for us,” Brown said. “No more moral wins. No more, ‘Oh, we had it.’”