The Binghamton University men’s basketball team is in the midst of a five-game losing streak following its loss to Boston University on Wednesday. Tomorrow, the Bearcats will look to end their streak and make a statement to their America East Conference opponents when they host conference-leading University of Maine at the Events Center.
The Bearcats (6-15, 3-5 AE) have remained competitive in conference play despite their star wingman, senior forward Greer Wright, missing games with an ankle injury. Binghamton started conference play with three straight victories before falling to Maine (13-7, 7-1 AE) on Jan. 15 by the score of 77-51. BU will look to avenge that loss by ending Maine’s six-game winning streak. The Black Bears are currently first in the conference, while the Bearcats rank sixth.
Recently, Binghamton has been plagued by prolonged scoring droughts at critical points of games. On Wednesday, the Bearcats held a six-point lead with 7:03 left but only scored four points thereafter. Last Sunday against Vermont, BU played the Catamounts evenly through 35 minutes before its offense stalled when faced with a 1-3-1 trap. Hartford was the first team to utilize the zone against Binghamton, and many teams have followed that blueprint.
“The first team played it on us, they got us,” said Binghamton head coach Mark Macon. “Everybody else has been doing it as well.”
Over the last five games, the team is shooting a shade over 33 percent from the field and just over 23 percent from 3-point range. With their offensive star hurt and their 3-point shots not falling, the Bearcats have had little spacing for post-ups, drives to the basket and offensive rebounding lanes. As a result, the droughts have been devastating.
“We are a jump-shooting team,” Macon said. “If we’re not shooting well, down goes the farm.”
BU has compounded its shooting woes by being beaten on the glass in four of the last five games.
“We definitely need more rebounders,” said senior forward Mahamoud Jabbi. “We have a lot of perimeter guys. We need Kyrie [Sutton] to play big.”
Junior center Kyrie Sutton may be the key to tomorrow’s game. When Sutton grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds against Hartford, his team won the battle of the boards. Neither Sutton nor Wright played in the first game against Maine.
Senior forward Mahamoud Jabbi has been on a tear as of late, averaging 16.3 points and 11 rebounds per game over the past three contests. This season, he’s averaging 10.2 points and a team-high seven rebounds per game while leading the team in total blocked shots with 35 and total steals with 25. An inside-outside threat, Jabbi has also shot 26-of-57 (45.6 percent) from 3-point range. The senior believes the team will be able to turn things around.
“Once you play every team once, you get to see them again,” Jabbi said. “That’s kind of like a new start. We just have to go and study film.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, Binghamton built a small lead through the first 10 minutes of action before Maine took over. The Black Bears built up a 15-point halftime lead, then held the Bearcats to just 27 percent shooting in the second half. Maine senior forward Troy Barnies struck for 21 points and nine rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. For the season, the efficient forward is averaging 14.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Gerald McLemore, the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.1 points per game, scored 15 against BU.
With Wright injured, Macon has increased the minutes of some younger players, including freshman guards Rob Mansell and K.J. Brown.
“I think K.J. … the more he learns, the better he will get,” Macon said. “He’s clever with the basketball. But a little too clever for K.J.. Rob is a defender and a scorer. He likes contact.”
Macon continued, “We’re playing guys who haven’t really been playing a lot of minutes. We’re a little banged up. But you have to keep on fighting until you get that one win.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Events Center.