After falling to Merrimack 10-9 in overtime in its opening game of America East (AE) play, the Binghamton men’s lacrosse team defeated NJIT 17-12 to pick up its first win of conference play. Despite trailing 8-7 at halftime, BU outscored NJIT 10-4 in the second half to secure a 17-12 victory over the Highlanders.

“I thought we came out with great energy,” said Binghamton head coach Kevin McKeown. “We were a little sloppy in the first half with the ball in the middle of the field, but I thought in the second half we came out a little bit cleaner, we still had good energy and we were able to take care of the ball a little bit better.”

NJIT (7-2, 0-2 AE) scored the first goal within their first 90 seconds of play to take an early lead. Just over a minute later, Binghamton (3-5, 1-1 AE) responded junior attack Gage Adams found the back of the net. The Highlanders and Bearcats traded scores until the Bearcats scored back-to-back goals in the final 3:08 — courtesy of senior midfielder Ethan Insinga. The Bearcats entered the second quarter with a 6-4 lead.

“I thought my guys were patient offensively,” McKeown said. “We didn’t take the first shot available. We worked for good opportunities, and the ball was moving really well today.”

To open the second quarter, NJIT scored two straight goals to tie the game at six. At the 6:59 mark in the period, Binghamton retook the lead with a goal from junior attack Matthew Keegan. However, the Highlanders continued to pepper Binghamton’s net, coming back with two scores in the next three minutes to regain the lead. Going into halftime, the Bearcats trailed 8-7.

“We did a good job starting on the offensive end,” McKeown said. “[Junior goalie Connor Winters] did a great job on goal. [Senior face-off Ross Chazanow], after not having a great first half, came out and did a really nice job scraping in the second half.”

Coming out of the half, Binghamton went on a two-goal run as Adams and senior midfielder Liam Ferris each found the back of the net to make it a 9-8 game. The Highlanders soon scored on their second man-up opportunity, tying the game up at 9-9. However, Binghamton then went on a 4-1 run to retake the lead. Two goals from Keegan, as well as one from both sophomore attack Colin Delay and junior midfielder Thomas Kelly, powered Binghamton to a 13-10 lead over NJIT entering the fourth quarter.

“The biggest thing we emphasized was the fundamentals,” McKeown said. “At halftime, we wanted to make sure we took care of the ball a little bit better. There was a lot of rain. It was a really wet day, so things got a little sloppier out there for both teams, so we wanted to make sure we could play through the conditions. I thought our defense tightened up a little bit. We played a little bit of zone defense in the second half, and I think that helped us out a little bit.”

The fourth quarter opened with a goal from NJIT in the first minute of play, cutting Binghamton’s lead to two at 13-11. The Bearcats responded with two goals from Adams and Keegan, padding a four-goal lead with 13 minutes to play. After a Highlander goal at the 10:56 mark, Binghamton closed out the game with a 2-0 run — courtesy of goals from freshman attack Andrew Girolamo and Ferris — to cement a 17-12 victory over NJIT.

“I think [going forward] we need to take care of the ball and not be reckless with it, making sure we’re clearing it the first time and continuing to develop offensively,” McKeown said. “I think this was our best shooting game, and we want to make sure that we’re more on the ball.”

Binghamton scored 17 goals, a season-high, with Girolamo scoring his first collegiate goal. Winters continued his eight-game streak with 10+ saves. Three Bearcats had hat tricks in the game, with Insinga, Adams and Keegan scoring three, four and five goals, respectively.

BU will continue its AE slate against UMass Lowell on Saturday, March 30. First face-off is set for 12 p.m. at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.