The Binghamton men’s basketball team suffered yet another frustrating loss Thursday night as it was soundly defeated by UMBC at home, 78-68. The Bearcats (10-16, 1-10 America East) could not withstand the offensive rush of the Retrievers (18-9, 9-3 AE), which piled nearly 80 points on the scoreboard, sending BU to its seventh straight loss.
“That is a good team we just played,” said BU head coach Tommy Dempsey. “Each time it looked like we had a chance to close the gap, they made a big shot … They’re very good offensively [and] they’re hard to stop.”
The Retrievers took the lead 45 seconds into the game and didn’t give it up once, earning themselves a wire-to-wire victory. BU junior guard J.C. Show put together another strong offensive performance, finishing with 23 points and five 3-point shots, but it wasn’t enough to get the Bearcats over the hump.
“It’s frustrating, but we’ve got to stay positive,” Show said. “There’s games left to be played … we’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep working.”
It was obvious from the opening minutes that the Bearcats were going to have a tough time defensively. Fueled by some early Bearcat turnovers, UMBC opened the game on a 9-0 run, prompting Dempsey to call a timeout less than two minutes into the game. The stretch seemed to set the tone for the first half, as the Retrievers seemed to be able to score almost at will.
Retrievers junior forward Joe Sherburne lit up the scoreboard for UMBC in the early minutes; he finished with 24 points. But the main facilitator of the UMBC offense was senior guard K.J. Maura. The 5-foot-8-inch speedster from Puerto Rico was able to drive into the paint the entire night, and either scored on his own or drew enough attention to find an open shot along the perimeter. Maura ended the game with 16 points to go along with six dimes.
“[Maura’s] hard to keep in front of you,” Dempsey said. “When he gets by, constantly drawing help, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense. And defensively he’s just there all night long.”
Despite the Retrievers’ scoring prowess, the Bearcats spent the rest of the first half slowly clawing into the lead. Led by Show, Binghamton found its offensive rhythm, and, following a Show 3-point basket, suddenly found itself only down by four. The momentum didn’t last, however, as UMBC’s offense powered back up in a heartbeat and put a 12-0 run together, enlarging the lead to 16 before the Bearcats could blink.
The half ended on an improbable buzzer-beating 3-point shot from Show, a shot that hit the rim, went straight up in the air and fell through, but the halftime deficit was still quite large at 41-28. Binghamton committed eight turnovers in the half and scored only 12 points by players other than Show.
In the second half, the Binghamton offense started to pick up, as more players began to get involved, but UMBC seemed to answer each basket with a basket of its own. A 3-point bucket from senior forward Willie Rodriguez was followed directly by a 3-pointer from Maura, while later a slam dunk by junior forward Thomas Bruce was answered right away by a dunk from UMBC freshman forward Brandon Horvath, two sequences that were emblematic of the second half as a whole.
One of the brighter moments for the Bearcats was the strong performance by freshman guard Albert Odero. In one of his best performances of the year, Odero finished with 14 points in 25 minutes, both season highs, including a sequence in the second half where he hit a mid-range jumper while drawing a foul, and then got his own rebound on the missed free throw to lay it back in. The 4-point possession seemed like a moment that the Bearcats could have seized upon to make a run, but the Retrievers answered with another basket, stifling yet another potential Binghamton run.
UMBC played an efficient, nearly mistake-free game, turning the ball over only five times and shooting nearly 86 percent from the line. The Retrievers kept Bruce in check for much of the game; he managed to muscle 10 points and 12 boards, but failed to make his presence felt. The Bearcats had several chances to make it a close game, but UMBC had all the answers and glided to a 10-point victory.
“Things are going to turn around for us,” Show said. “We’ve just got to keep believing, and we’ve got to keep trusting each other and stay together.”
The Bearcats will enjoy a weeklong rest before returning to the hardwood to take on Stony Brook on Thursday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.