The Binghamton University men’s basketball team returned to its home court on Tuesday night in hopes of ending its four-game losing streak. After facing a large deficit early on, the team had a late run, but fell short, losing to Canisius College 55-45.
BU trailed by 18 points in the second half at one point, but fought its way back to within seven before the Golden Griffins (3-2) secured the victory. Senior forward Greer Wright had a game-high 23 points along with six rebounds for the Bearcats.
BU (1-5) came out with energy and built a small lead in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Golden Griffins responded by turning up the defensive pressure and went on a 20-2 run to lead 28-12 at halftime.
“We just went into a lull of taking jump shots,” said BU head coach Mark Macon. “If you guys looked at the game from a student perspective, you’d be like, ‘Wait a minute, they’re shooting a lot of jumpers. They’re really not getting any glass work, so therefore they can’t get fouled.’ That’s what happens.”
BU did not attempt a free throw in the first half and shot just 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) from the floor, including 2-of-12 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range. Canisius stopped BU’s pick-and-roll plays and shut off the post-entry passing lanes, resulting in BU’s perimeter players taking contested jump shots.
“I wish we could have gotten more [free throw attempts] in the first half,” Macon said. “We weren’t really attacking, and Greer wasn’t attacking the basket.”
Wright shot 1-of-5 from 3-point range in the first half and was called for two offensive fouls in the paint when he did drive. Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta said his defensive strategy was to make BU a perimeter team.
“What we really tried to do was keep them out of the lane,” Parrotta said. “It was kind of one vs. one out there.”
BU came out with more energy in the second half, which resulted in better ball movement and greater access to the basket area. Wright earned 12 free throw attempts in the half and scored 18 of BU’s 33 second-half points.
“In the second half we came out with a lot of intensity,” Wright said. “That’s what we have to do every game. We have to figure out how to bring that second-half intensity for 40 minutes.”
Parrotta said Wright was the key to BU’s second-half surge.
“Greer’s a pretty good player,” Parrotta said. “He got the better of us in the second half, loosened things up.”
BU trailed 43-25 at the 9:03 mark of the second half before going on a 10-2 run, which culminated with senior guard Chretien Lukusa burying a 3-point shot with 4:49 left. However, Canisius sophomore guard Alshwan Hymes answered with a 3-pointer of his own to slow BU’s momentum.
“We attacked the basket,” Macon said. “We were shooting two free throws with four or five minutes left in the game. We got it back down to 10. We gave up a 3-pointer on a missed assignment. It’s a backbreaker.”
BU made another run and brought the lead down to seven, 48-41, with 2:14 left to play. Canisius was able to grab two offensive rebounds on their next trip down the floor before finally scoring and regaining control of the game.
“We gave them like four shots at the basket,” Macon said. “Those are backbreakers. Those 50-50 balls we’ve got to have. We have to rebound the basketball.”
The Bearcats were outrebounded 37-28 overall. Canisius was able to grab 14 offensive rebounds off its own 30 missed field goal attempts.
Canisius used a balanced scoring attack to manufacture points. Senior forward Elton Frazier scored 13 points and Hymes added 12, including four 3-point makes. Three other players scored seven points or more. Coming into the game, Canisius had six players scoring between 7.8 and 11.8 points per game.
Aside from Wright, no other Bearcat scored more than six points. Lukusa and freshman forward Alex Ogundadegbe scored six points each. BU shot 14-46 (30.4 percent) from the floor for the game.
Macon said that despite the offensive struggles, he got good contributions from some of his younger players.
“I applaud our younger guys, especially Alex [Ogundadegbe],” Macon said. “Alex is playing above and beyond any of my expectations. And K.J. [Brown], he got in the game today and did some okay things. Rob Mansell — for me, he’s solid. Jimmy [Gray] has been solid for me. It’s gradual. We’re getting better as a team. Guys are starting to buy in.”
Macon said that he implemented a different offense this year, which his players are still trying to grasp. He said as the season progresses, he hopes to get the players to engage opposing defenses by instinctively attacking as opposed to thinking too much before making a play. According to Wright, everybody is still learning.
“We had a good talk in the locker room after the game, just letting Coach coach us,” Wright said. “Just let him teach us what he knows, and we just got to take it in like a sponge.”
Macon said he will put his players through tough defensive and rebounding drills throughout the week. According to Macon, a back-to-the-basics approach is necessary when a team is on a losing streak.
“It starts off defensively,” he said. “It starts off staying in front of a guy, getting low. It’s about getting those first few stops in a game and getting your energy pumped up.”
BU will look to end its five-game losing streak Wednesday when it hosts Hofstra University (3-3).
“[Hofstra’s] a disciplined team,” Macon said. “[Binghamton’s players are] going to hear that from me every day. You got to do this because Hofstra’s going to do it. You got to be here because they are going to be here. Those are the things they are going to hear from me, because we have to get better.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Events Center.