The Binghamton men’s basketball team rebounded from a sluggish start to cruise to a 76-59 victory over Morgan State in its season opener on Friday. The Bearcats’ electric performance from beyond the arc propelled the offense to victory, where they shot nearly 48 percent from downtown.
“It just feels good to get the win,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “I think we were nervous to start … but overall, we settled in, we played together, we got a great team effort.”
The Bearcats shared the scoring generously — three players co-led the team with 14 points each. A total of four Bearcats reached double digits, and the team racked up 11 assists.
On the defensive side of the ball, Binghamton’s effort was led by junior forward Thomas Bruce, who started at center in the game. Bruce dominated the glass, accumulating 14 total rebounds to go along with his 14 points, giving him a double-double. Bruce also acquired four blocks and two steals for the game.
“I felt pretty well [about the game],” Bruce said. “We’ve been working a lot, we’ve had a ton of time in the offseason to get ready. We’ve all been working in the gym, working on our skills … that definitely helped a lot.”
It was a tale of two halves for BU in its home opener. The Bearcats stumbled out of the gate with sloppy, disorganized play. The team turned it over six times in the first eight minutes of the game, and struggled to capitalize on the offensive end of the court. The game remained close, though, mainly because Morgan State struggled with the same problems, turning the first 10 minutes into a slow, low-scoring affair.
Things began to open up after that, but not in the Bearcats’ favor. Morgan State, led by senior forward Phillip Carr, scored seven unanswered points to turn a tied game into a 22-15 lead with five minutes remaining until halftime. The Bearcats went nearly 3 1/2 minutes without a basket during that span, and picked up four fouls.
The Bearcats clawed their way back into it, primarily thanks to the efforts of senior forward Willie Rodriguez and redshirt junior forward Caleb Stewart, but the team still found itself down by a point at the half. BU shot only 38 percent from the field, and went an abysmal 50 percent from the free-throw line.
“We didn’t feel like we played well in the first half, yet it was a one-point game,” Dempsey said. “I thought there was a comfort level in our locker room, that if we came out and got off to a good start … [we could] take the lead and never look back.”
And that is exactly what the Bearcats did. Junior guard J.C. Show, who had a quiet first half, erupted offensively to power BU to a 20-2 run to start the second half. Show scored 12 of his 14 points during this span, while Rodriguez contributed a rare four-point play. On the other side of the court, Bruce’s stalwart defense helped keep Morgan State mostly off the scoreboard, and Binghamton suddenly found itself with a 17-point advantage.
From there, the Bearcats cruised through the rest of the game. Their lead never dwindled below double-digits, and they kept up the scoring pace they had set, due in part to Morgan State getting into foul trouble fairly quickly. An alley-oop from junior guard Timmy Rose to Bruce put the exclamation point on the match, and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
“We’ve been looking forward to getting this season going,” Show said. “To get out there, and play, and get a win in the first game, it feels great.”
The Bearcats’ season rolls on when they face off with Cornell tonight at 7 p.m. at the Newman Arena in Ithaca, New York.