This Thursday and Saturday, the Binghamton men’s basketball team participated in its first two games of the Cancun Challenge. The contests took place on the road as the team faced off against the George Mason Patriots and the Evansville Purple Aces. The Bearcats (1-3) dropped both games and extended their losing streak to three games.
The Bearcats began play against the Patriots (3-1) with an impressive showing, maintaining the lead for nearly the entire first half. Leading by as much as 12 at one point, BU held a six-point lead at halftime. Binghamton shot 53.6 percent from the field during the first half, demonstrating smart-shot selection on the offensive end. The second half, however, was a different story.
“We broke down in some key moments,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “A lot of it was George Mason, they stayed poised when they were behind, they came back, they took the lead, their crowd really got into it … I think we’re still growing up. We had an opportunity tonight to beat a really good Atlantic 10 team in their building and we didn’t take advantage of it. But that’s part of the learning curve.”
The Bearcats were able to maintain their lead throughout most of the second half, retaking it for the final time via a tipped-in rebound from redshirt junior forward Caleb Stewart with just 5:49 remaining. Following this, however, the Patriots cashed in on three 3-pointers in just over a three-minute span to decisively take back the advantage. Binghamton ended the game with five missed shots and three missed free throws. During this second half, the Bearcats shot just 26.1 percent from the field (6-23). BU lost decisively to George Mason, 69-57.
A highlight of the game was junior guard J.C. Show, who led Binghamton in scoring with 13 points in 36 minutes. This figure includes two 3-pointers made in a 17-second span, a critical aspect of a 15-4 Bearcats run during the first half.
Show carried this momentum into Saturday’s game versus the Purple Aces (4-0), scoring 27-points. Despite this effort, the Bearcats were unable to take the lead more than once throughout the game. Following a dunk by junior forward Thomas Bruce for the first points of the day, Evansville went on a 23-5 stretch to take control of the first half. The Bearcats went 9-23 from the field during this half, shooting just 39.1 percent. Show, however, did everything that he could to keep Binghamton in the game, scoring eight points in just over one minute to bring his team within 12 points at the break.
“I’m proud of our players,” Dempsey said. “We got down big on the road, we had a hard time finding offense against that stingy defense of Evansville. We really hung in there … the fight in our guys is strong right now, and the wins are coming.”
During that second half, the Bearcats went on a 13-4 run to bring them within one point of Evansville with just 3:13 remaining. A traditional 3-point play from junior guard Everson Davis, who had a fancy finish in the paint to provide the and-one opportunity, was a major feature of the stretch. A 3-pointer from Evansville redshirt junior guard Ryan Taylor in response put the Bearcats out of reach. Six free throws during the final 39 seconds of the game was all Evansville needed to claim its narrow victory, 66-61.
After completing their U.S. games for the Cancun Challenge, the Bearcats will now travel to Cancun, Mexico to face off against Big Sky member Montana State. Tipoff is set for 12:30 p.m. this Tuesday from the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.