Come around 9:20 Tuesday night at the Events Center, the Binghamton University men’s basketball team was familiar with what laid before it: watch the seconds tick off the clock, listen to the buzzer sound, shake hands and head back to the drawing boards.
Despite BU freshman Ben Dickinson’s game-high 20 points, Bucknell University held off a second-half Bearcat surge for a 77-63 victory.
Four players finished in double digits for the Bison, including forward Joe Willman, who scored 16, and guard Cameron Ayers, who tallied 13. Bucknell shot 68 percent from the field in the first half and just over 61 percent for the game.
“You have to commend Bucknell because they’re a veteran team and they showed it in the first half,” BU head coach Mark Macon said in a postgame press conference. “I think our guys gave a valiant, valiant effort throughout, especially in the second half.”
After entering the locker room down 20 at halftime, Binghamton (0-7) nearly doubled its first-half production in the second, scoring 40 points in the final 20 minutes.
Before heading to Vestal, the Bison (6-4) had lost their last two games and sported a 1-4 record in road contests.
But as others have done with relative ease this season, they disposed of a young Binghamton squad that now sits at 0-7 on the year, the program’s worst start since the 1996-97 season when it was a member of the Division III State University of New York Athletic Conference.
“There’s no reason for us to be down regardless of our record,” junior guard Jimmy Gray said. “We’re a young team, we’re gaining experience and we’re getting better as each game goes by. We had a good effort tonight; we just have to have it in both halves.”
Bucknell jumped out to a 17-6 lead in the opening minutes on the strength of three 3-pointers. Binghamton cut the lead to as little as six with 9:34 to go, but a 24-10 Bucknell run gave the Bison a 43-23 lead at the half.
The gap ballooned to as much as 24 twice in the second half and remained as high as 20 with less than 10 minutes to go. A 19-8 Binghamton run cut the deficit to nine, but the rally proved to be too little too late.
Junior Taylor Johnston’s career-high 14 points were at the heart of the Bearcat rally.
“He’s been working hard in practice, and it showed today,” Macon said. “He wants to come out and show that he can be a part of that six or seven or eight guys. And today, that’s what he was for us.”
Johnston saw significant time due to the absence of freshman Omar Richards, who has been suspended from the team as a result of a violation of the athletic department’s code of conduct.
“It makes us one man down, but that’s when another guy has to step up,” Macon said. “And that’s what we saw in [Johnston].”
Macon would not elaborate on the nature of Richards’ violation, saying only that he would be “suspended until further notice.”
The team will not play another game before the semester comes to a close, but will continue its schedule with 14 games over winter break.
Binghamton is set to enter America East play on Jan. 2 against University of Maine. Other notable opponents in the 14-game span include Hofstra University on Dec. 17 and Morehead State University on Dec. 19.
The Bearcats are now in the middle of an 11-day break for finals. Macon stressed the importance of his players not only studying for their exams, but also watching film on Hofstra to become familiar with the Pride’s style.
“It’s imperative that we watch film, that they get a feel for who Hofstra is, who their best players are, where they get their shots and what they do,” he said.
As of Thursday, the Pride was 3-6, and through nine games this season senior guard Mike Moore led the team in scoring with an average of 19.8 points per game.
“A good student is one who studies. If you don’t study, you can’t get good grades,” Macon said. “Unless you’re a genius like me.”