The Binghamton men’s basketball team continued its disappointing start to conference play with a 69-57 loss to the UMBC Retrievers on Wednesday night. Entering the game with a two-game losing streak, the Bearcats (10-12, 1-6 America East) were unable to hold on to a short-lived lead, forcing the team to fight from behind for much of the match.
BU started the first half with a layup by junior forward Thomas Bruce to take a 2-0 lead. Eleven minutes into the half, redshirt freshman guard Tyler Stewart hit a jumper to give the Bearcats a 15-12 lead, but just before that, a turning point occurred for the Retrievers (14-8, 4-2 AE).
With a 13-10 lead, Bruce, BU’s best defensive player, committed his third foul of the game, forcing head coach Tommy Dempsey to pull him for the remainder of the half. The Retrievers made their two free throws and began to take over the game. The Retrievers went on a 17-0 run, lasting until there was just 4 1/2 minutes left on the clock and putting them firmly in command with a 29-15 lead. UMBC ultimately took a 36-18 advantage into the locker room at halftime, and the Bearcats were forced to rethink their approach to the game during the break.
Junior guard J.C. Show, potentially dealing with the effects of the injury that kept him out during last season’s conference play, left the match with just over 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half. He would not return until late in the second half, finishing with just three points, his lowest total of the season.
UMBC came out firing in the second half, extending its edge to 40-20. Despite the large deficit, BU did not show signs of defeat. With 12 minutes remaining on the clock, sophomore guard Fard Muhammad, who entered the game off of the bench, stole the ball away from the Retrievers and sprinted down the court for a layup, helping to cut UMBC’s lead to 48-40. Muhammad followed up this sequence with a 3-pointer, extending the Bearcats’ run to 20-8. The score at that point was 48-43, with the five-point deficit the smallest for the Bearcats since early in the first half.
UMBC held on to its lead for the remainder of the game, eventually winning 69-57. The Bearcats showed heart while playing from behind during much of the game, outscoring the Retrievers 39-33 in the second half.
Junior guard Everson Davis led the Bearcats in points with 14, and senior forward Willie Rodriguez had a team-high 11 rebounds. His seventh rebound made him Binghamton’s all-time rebounds leader in the program’s 17-year history, with 603 in total. Rodriguez moved past Nick Billings, who totaled 598 throughout the 2001-05 seasons, and he is currently eighth overall in Binghamton’s school history.
This season’s start to conference play is eerily similar to that of last season, in which the Bearcats started with the same 1-6 record in their first seven conference matches. The team lost its final nine games and finished 12-20.
Binghamton will return home to battle New Hampshire on Saturday, Jan. 27. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.