Tuesday night was supposed to be business as usual at the Events Center.
The spirit squads put on their pregame performance, the pep band played its usual jams and the teams lined up for introductions and the National Anthem.
The starters took the floor, and like the 26 times before, the Binghamton University men’s basketball team was set to tip off a game in search of its first win.
But this was night No. 27.
This game wouldn’t end in disappointment for the Bearcats. It wouldn’t end with heads down in the locker room or a postgame press conference riddled with reporters who ran out of new questions to ask 10 games ago.
After two clutch free throws from junior Jimmy Gray gave Binghamton a two-possession lead with only four seconds to go, reality set in, and by the time the clock hit zero, the 2,427 in attendance saw the nation’s last remaining winless team finally start a winning streak of its own.
“It was the most amazing feeling,” said senior Pamela Antoci, a member of Binghamton’s cheer team. “We all went crazy and were just extremely excited to finally see our score come up on top and come out with a win.”
But extremely excited may have been an understatement as fans from the student section rushed out onto the court from the bleachers and mobbed Binghamton’s players.
“As time kept going down, everyone was thinking, ‘Wow this is going to happen,’” said Kyle Verspoor, a senior who attended the game. “In the last two minutes, kids started moving down the bleachers, all getting ready to rush the court. It was a ton of fun, so much energy.”
University President Harvey G. Stenger was in attendance at the Events Center for the Bearcats’ first win during his time at Binghamton.
“It was fun to watch, everybody was excited and the team was smiling,” Stenger said. “It was remarkable how the community was here and they stayed and listened and watched and bit their nails right to the end.”
Head coach Mark Macon was interviewed on ESPN’s SportsCenter and Grantland, a popular sports website, had a small piece on the game. For the first time all season, Binghamton basketball was made relevant by something positive.
“I’m really so happy for our student-athletes, they work hard day in and day out and they deserve to get a win,” athletic director Patrick Elliott said. “I think also just how special it was that our community and our fans have been so supportive all year, but the reaction of our fans, I’m happy for them to give them the experience. It’s been a difficult season so to have a game like that where everybody can celebrate and our students can win on their home court and the fans can enjoy it. That made it really special.”
— Aaron Gottlieb contributed reporting from the Events Center