Everything was seemingly there for the taking.
To the optimists, this was it. Finally, after 24 games and nearly three months of failure, Wednesday night brought the opportunity for which the fans, students and community had been waiting.
It had taken a while, but the stars were finally going to align for the Binghamton University men’s basketball team.
After all, visiting University of Maryland, Baltimore County was as close to an equal as the Bearcats were going to find all year.
Ninth place versus eighth, 0-24 versus 3-22. Binghamton even had the Retrievers’ number of late: 8-1 in the last nine meetings between the two squads at the Events Center.
For those still clinging to a shred of hope, especially after BU’s quick 7-0 start that rendered the Events Center student section at the highest volume and energy level in recent memory, this was to be the night the Bearcats were finally going to get off the proverbial snide.
Until they didn’t, 70-56.
Even at halftime on Wednesday, trailing by a slim margin at 24-20, Binghamton (0-25, 0-13 America East) was still right in the thick of it. UMBC (4-22, 3-11 AE), ahead despite shooting just 32 percent, was in that position only because the Bearcats countered with a meager 26 percent (7-of-26) of their own.
“If we make those shots, it’s not bad shooting,” Binghamton head coach Mark Macon said. “I equate [the first-half low-scoring totals] to good defense — from us. I don’t know what it was from them … We played extremely well; we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”
Neither team seemed to have that trouble in the second half, as both the Retrievers and Bearcats nearly doubled their first-half point totals in the final 20 minutes.
Junior guard Jimmy Gray nailed a 3-pointer five minutes into the second to pull the Bearcats to within two at 28-26, but it would be the last time they came within reach of the Retrievers.
From that point on, UMBC built a 12-point lead with an 18-8 run and held at least an eight-point advantage for the rest of the game.
Sophomore Chase Plummer led the charge for the Retrievers, matching his first-half total of six points in the seven-minute span that put his team up for good. He would finish with a game-high 15 points.
“They just gave the ball to Plummer and he went to work,” Macon said. “He made bucket after bucket on us. It hurt us, it really did, and we couldn’t make up for it after that.”
Macon also partially attributed the second-half differential to an increase in turnovers.
Freshman forward Ben Dickinson was Binghamton’s chief perpetrator in the turnover column (six). UMBC as a team committed just nine.
The Bearcats’ second-leading scorer this season, Dickinson, with an average of 12 points per game, followed up a 13-point performance against Boston University last week (6-of-13) and an 18-point game against University of Hartford on Sunday (7-of-12) with just eight points on Wednesday on 2-of-14 from the field.
“You hate it, but you have to live with it with him,” Macon said. “He’s learning and I’ll live and die with him going 2-14, because how many rebounds did he have?”
He had 12, a game high.
“That’s the difference in him,” Macon continued. “When he doesn’t score he does other things for us, and rebounding is something he’s been doing pretty [well].”
Nevertheless, winning is not something any of the Bearcats have been able to do well — or at all — this year.
The zero in their win column and the spotlight shone upon it grows with every game, and according to Gray, that elusive “W” is something for which the team continues to strive.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “But it’s definitely something we want badly.”
As for the prime chance that Wednesday presented for Binghamton, Gray said the team did not feel any differently about going up against UMBC than they do about any other game.
“We don’t have any expectations,” he said. “We’re just going to go out and play hard.”
Four games remain for the Bearcats to “play hard” enough to change the zero on the left side of their record.
Their next chance will come tomorrow against Radford University. Like Binghamton, the Highlanders haven’t had much luck this season. They’ve posted a 5-23 overall record, including 2-14 in the Big South.
Game time is set for 4 p.m. in Radford, Va.