With a mere 12 seconds left on the clock, the Binghamton men’s basketball team found itself down by just three points against UMass Lowell on Saturday afternoon. After a time-out, the Bearcats (12-13, 3-7 America East) worked the ball around, trying to find an open man behind the 3-point line.
Junior forward Willie Rodriguez appeared to be that man, but a foolish foul committed by the River Hawks (10-15, 4-6 AE) sent him to the free-throw line with one last hope to tie the game at 60. He was unable to sink the first attempt, sealing UMass Lowell’s 60-59 victory over BU.
“We tried to have him [Rodriguez] throw it really high and hopefully hit the back of the rim, and then we screened across and we were going to have Thomas [Bruce] try to go up and tip it in,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “The free throw just ended up rattling in … that wasn’t my design, obviously.”
The Bearcats’ defeat marks their second consecutive loss; they were blown out by UMBC last Wednesday. Although BU failed to execute in the final moments of play versus UML, BU competed throughout the entire game.
“[UMass Lowell] are a tough team and we played really hard,” Dempsey said. “I thought our guys spilled their guts out there. It was very physical and both teams played really solid defense. It was just a grind down the stretch.”
In the first half, BU came out firing. The Bearcats shot 38 percent from the field and were red-hot from beyond the arc, hitting seven of their 15 3-pointers. Late in the half, freshman guard Fard Muhammad sank a three to push BU’s lead to 16 points, its largest of the day.
With five minutes left in the first half, it seemed as though a victory was likely for the Bearcats, who had held UML to 20 percent from the field at that point. Unable to continue its success both defensively and offensively, BU let its lead slowly fade, allowing the hosts to finish the half on a 12-3 run.
Heading into the second half up by seven, the Bearcats’ shooting fell off. They went ice cold from the field in the second, making just 30 percent of their shots. UML tightened up its defense, especially on the perimeter. BU was only able to hit one of six 3-pointer attempts in the second half.
Late in the second half, the Bearcats could not keep UML out of the paint. Senior forward Tyler Livingston capped off his 12-point game with a transition dunk to put UML up for good. Redshirt junior guard Jahad Thomas led the way for the River Hawks with 19 points.
In a match came down to the final possession, BU greatly benefited from bench contributions, particularly those of Muhammad. He added 10 points off of the bench, including three from beyond the arc, and helped BU outscore the River Hawks’ bench by 14.
The River Hawks led for just 2:36 over the entire contest but were able to complete the comeback. The contest between the Bearcats and River Hawks featured eight ties and seven lead changes.
“We make a couple of free throws and we probably get out of here with a narrow victory,” Dempsey said. “We miss the free throws and we get out of here with a narrow loss. There’s really a fine line between winning and losing in a game like that.”
BU is set to face off against conference-leading Vermont tonight. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vermont.