Nearly 4,500 fans filled the seats of the Events Center, most sporting white T-shirts, to cheer on the Bearcats and celebrate the 14th anniversary of the opening of the Events Center. But they left disappointed, as the Binghamton men’s basketball team dropped its fifth straight contest. The Bearcats (10-14, 1-8 America East) gave up another late-game run, allowing the Catamounts (18-5, 8-0 AE) to power past them to a 68-54 victory.
“[The Catamounts] are a solid team in every aspect,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “You have to play your A-game to beat them, and we didn’t play our A-game tonight.”
Binghamton struggled from the field the entire game, finishing with a meager 36.7 field goal percentage. Vermont didn’t shoot much better, but came up with a whopping 18 offensive rebounds in the game, allowing itself to garner many second-chance points. The Catamounts had 66 field goal attempts to Binghamton’s 49.
“From an offensive standpoint they’re a tough team to stop, but you’ve got to hold them to one [possession],” Dempsey said. “It’s tough when a team gets that many more shots than you do over the course of the game.”
Redshirt freshman guard Tyler Stewart led the Bearcats in scoring with 12 points for the game, while Binghamton’s usual star players were mostly held in check. The Bearcats struggled to move the ball and ended up with only eight assists as a team.
Despite the final score, the game was relatively close for the first 30 minutes. The Catamounts’ offensive rebounding kept them ahead, but Binghamton’s proficient 3-point shooting, led by Stewart and sophomore guard Fard Muhammad, kept BU within six to eight points for most of the first half. Twelve of the team’s 23 points in the first half came from 3-point shooting.
With a few minutes remaining in the period, the Bearcats put a small run together to pull them within one. They quickly found themselves in foul trouble, however, giving Vermont scoring chances from the free-throw line. That, coupled with several Bearcat turnovers, allowed Vermont to end the half on a 12-4 run, giving the Catamounts a nine-point edge at the break.
The second half began well for Binghamton. Senior forward Willie Rodriguez and junior guard Everson Davis powered a Bearcat 10-4 run, which was capped off by a triple by Rodriguez to send the crowd to its feet. He was fouled on the attempt as well, giving him a chance for a four-point play.
“We had a great spurt early in the second half,” Dempsey said. “We got back and made it interesting for a while, but they have the answers.”
Rodriguez missed the free throw, and senior guard Trae Bell-Haynes of Vermont answered right away with a 3-pointer of his own, which turned out to be the beginning of an 18-7 Catamount run.
Bell-Haynes continued to put points on the board in the second half for the Catamounts, while their defense began to get stingy. There was hardly a pass that Binghamton attempted that went uncontested. The Vermont lead continued to grow as fans began to head to the exits.
The Bearcats finished the game with 14 turnovers and shot a mere 64.7 percent from the line. With the loss, the Bearcats remain in last place in the AE Conference, and will have to fight merely to make the postseason AE Tournament.
“We as players have to step up, myself included,” Stewart said. “We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and do what we have to do to get better.”
The Bearcats will attempt to right the ship in their next game against Maine on Saturday, Feb. 3. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. from the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine.