In what first appeared to be an encouraging performance, the Binghamton men’s basketball team found itself in a tight battle with the elite Vermont team on Monday night. Trailing by single digits with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Bearcats (12-14, 3-8 America East) were in position to pull off an upset. However, their subsequent play was a microcosm of their conference season: shoddy defense and comparatively inferior offense.
The Catamounts (21-5, 11-0 AE) went on a 19-9 run, finishing off the Bearcats en route to a 71-51 blowout. BU was adept at trading baskets for most of the game, hanging with a formidable opponent, but ultimately ran out of gas down the stretch.
“We worked hard all game and hung in there, but just couldn’t make that final push,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “We fought hard defensively but just couldn’t find enough points.”
BU started the first half hot, going up 9-4 less than four minutes into the game. The quick start was more than nullified, as Vermont smoothly countered with a 24-7 run. The score differential remained steady until the half, with the Catamounts heading into the break, 33-23.
The Bearcats found efficient shots by way of their front court, as junior forward Bobby Ahearn and sophomore forward Thomas Bruce led the way with a combined 11 points on only seven shots in the first half. The rest of the offense struggled mightily, as the team shot only 39.1 percent from the field. In contrast, Vermont shot an impressive 54.5 percent from the field, including a scorching 55.6 percent from beyond the arc. Despite this advantage by Vermont, the Bearcats still found themselves in striking distance at halftime.
BU’s second-half offense put more of an emphasis on playing through its big men, and it paid off greatly. Ahearn, Bruce and junior forward Dusan Perovic combined for 20 of the team’s 28 second-half points, providing an effective counter to Vermont’s sharpshooting attack. After an Ahearn 3-pointer, the Bearcats found themselves down 52-43, with 9:15 to play. The Catamounts proceeded to pull, going 6-for-10 from the floor to close out the game and earn the season sweep.
“They put it away in the last couple of minutes,” Dempsey said.
The Catamounts’ trio of redshirt sophomore guard Ernie Duncan, redshirt junior forward Payton Henson and redshirt senior forward Darren Payen, spearheaded the offensive attack. They scored a combined 42 points and went 17-for-24 from the court. Their dominant scoring played an integral role in denying the Bearcats an opportunity to make it a one-possession game.
For BU, Ahearn led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds. No other Bearcat scored in double digits, and the lack of a diverse offense hurt the team’s ability to counter the Catamounts’ potent attack.
The Bearcats will look to put this loss behind them when they face Albany at home Thursday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.