In the past, the Vermont Catamounts have been the talk of the town in the America East Conference, while the Binghamton Bearcats have found themselves towards the bottom of the conference standings.
In non-conference play this year, it looked as though the Bearcats would find themselves towards the bottom of the standings once again. They entered conference play with only one win on their resume, in comparison to 14 losses. While they entered Wednesday night with a 4 – 24 record, three wins in conference play was a step in the right direction.
As for the Vermont Catamounts, they found themselves nipping at the heels of the Albany Great Danes in the conference standings. With Albany losing its first conference game of the season earlier in the week, Vermont had a great opportunity on Wednesday to stay within one game of the conference leader.
As is the case game after game, and season after season, college basketball in the NCAA is as unpredictable as ever, and that unpredictability was on full display on Wednesday. The Binghamton Bearcats used a strong second half comeback to upset the Vermont Catamount, 57 – 55, on their home floor in Binghamton, NY.
Both teams had opportunities to score in the opening couple of minutes, but has some struggles on the offensive end. Ethan O’Day missed three field goal attempts in the first 1:10 of the game for the Catamounts, while Justin McFadden missed a pair of free throws for Binghamton. Dre Wills broke the scoreless tie at the 18:08 mark, putting Vermont up two early on.
Romello Walker would make his presence felt for the hometown Binghamton Bearcats out of the first media timeout, scoring six straight points to force Vermont to burn a timeout. Walker’s personal run pushed Binghamton to a 10 – 6 lead.
The lead, however, was short-lived. Vermont started to flex their muscle, and pulled out to an 18 – 12 lead with just under 9 minutes to play. Ethan O’Day capped off a 12 – 2 run out of the Catamounts’ timeout with a layup.
Binghamton would immediately erase the lead, knotting the game up at 20 – all. From there on out, the teams would trade baskets, with Vermont getting the last laugh in the half by taking a slim lead into the break.
After the first 20 minutes of action, Binghamton was hanging with the mighty Catamounts, as Vermont held a slim 27 – 23 lead.
Binghamton opened the second half by erasing the slim Catamount lead, thanks to baskets from Bobby Ahearn and Justin McFadden. From there, Vermont would stretch the lead to seven points, capped off by a three pointer from Kurt Steidl and a layup from Hector Harold.
Just when it looked like the Catamounts were going to run away with the contest, the Bearcats would storm back and make a game out of it. Binghamton held Vermont off the scoreboard for a span of about four minutes, which allowed the Bearcats to trim the deficit to just four points. Willie Rodriguez made two straight jumpers to cut the deficit to 45 – 41 with 7:02 left to play.
The Bearcats would get the game tied at 50 – all with just 2:55 to play, and the momentum was on their side the rest of the way. A pair of free throws from Romello Walker gave Binghamton their first lead since the middle of the first half, and they never looked back.
Strong free throw shooting down the stretch allowed for Binghamton to maintain a lead, and a little bit of luck at the end of the game helped preserve the victory.
Yosef Yacob missed two free throws for the Bearcats with 3 seconds left on the clock, giving Vermont one last chance to win or tie. Cam Ward missed a three point jumper for Vermont, and Binghamton had pulled off the upset win.
At the final buzzer, the scoreboard read 57 – 55, in favour of the hometown Binghamton Bearcats.
For the visiting Vermont Catamounts, a balanced scoring attack wasn’t enough to lead the team to victory. Guard Dre Wills led the way for Vermont, scoring a team-high 14 points to go along with 6 rebounds in the loss. Ethan O’Day bounced back from his early-game struggles to record 10 points and 7 rebounds.
The loss for Vermont puts them 1.5 games behind Albany, and the Great Danes have a game in hand on the Catamounts. If Albany wins their next game, the Great Danes are guaranteed at least a share of the America East title. Vermont needs to win out and Albany has to lose all three of their remaining games for the Catamounts to be able to claim the title.
As for the hometown Binghamton Bearcats, a balanced scoring attack was the key to their victory. Five different players scored at least 6 points in the game, led by Willie Rodriguez who recorded a game-high 18 points in 39 minutes of floor time. Big man Bobby Ahearn added in 12 points and 7 rebounds to help lead the Bearcats to victory.
The loss put an end to the five-game winning streak of the Vermont Catamounts (16 – 11, 11 – 3). The team only has two games left in the regular season, which culminates with a rematch against the Albany Great Danes. Before then, the Catamounts have a home date with the New Hampshire Wildcats.
For the Binghamton Bearcats (5 – 24, 4 – 10), the win put an end to their four-game losing streak in conference play. The victory also ensures the team will not finish in last place in the regular season conference standings. Up next for the Bearcats is a road date with the Stony Brook Seawolves.