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Men’s basketball defeats league-leading Vermont for first win 57-53

Bearcats hold lead for nearly entire game; win sets off emotional celebration

February 21, 2012

Men’s basketball defeats league-leading Vermont for first win 57-53

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VESTAL, N.Y.—Junior guard Jimmy Gray swished a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining and Binghamton men’s basketball held off America East leader Vermont 57-53 Tuesday night from the Events Center for the team’s first win of the season. The Bearcats (1-26, 1-13 AE) snapped a 27-game losing skid that began with a loss to Vermont in the conference tournament last March. Vermont (19-11, 12-3 AE) entered the night having won 10 straight and 13 of their its 14, including a 20-point drubbing of Binghamton on January 12 in Burlington.

Gray’s two free throws capped a frantic final few minutes as the Catamounts seemed poised to spoil another valiant effort by the Bearcats, who saw a 12-point lead dwindle to two with 2:13 to play. But Binghamton stood tall and when the final horn sounded, many of the 2,427 rushed the floor to celebrate with the team.

After giving up the game’s first basket, Binghamton took the lead less than two minutes into the contest, led by 10 at halftime and held the throughout the final 38 minutes. The Bearcats led 49-37 with 8:15 remaining - the team’s largest lead of the game and largest of the season. But Vermont used a 14-4 run and when Matt Glass drilled a three-pointer with 2:13 left, BU’s lead was just two, 53-51.

On the next possession, Binghamton missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but on the ensuing Vermont possession, sophomore guard Robert Mansell stripped Catamounts forward Luke Apfeld of the ball near the rim and on the other end, Mansell fed freshman forward Ben Dickinson in the left corner. Dickinson, who delivered third double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds, drilled a 15-foot jumper to extend the lead to four, 55-51, with 1:03 left. Vermont nailed a jumper in their next possession with 49 seconds left and after an off-balance baseline jumper from Dickinson was off the mark with 20 seconds left, the collective building held its breath. Vermont worked the ball inside and out, needing a two for the tie and a three-pointer for the win. The ball swung out to Glass, one of the league’s best outside shooters who hadn’t missed a shot in the game (6-of-6 FG), including 2-of-2 marksmanship from three-point range. With Binghamton fans on their feet screaming, Glass’s attempt fell short off the front rim and Gray secured the rebound, drawing the foul. With the Events Center hushed in silence, Gray then secured the win with the clutch foul shots.   

“To see the happiness on our players’ faces was uplifting,” head coach Mark Macon said. “They played hard, played to the end and deserve this. We played great defense tonight (Vermont entered the game averaging 68 ppg.), ran our offense through and made shots. We’ve been right there in the last 2-3 weeks and we expect to win every game. I applaud these guys ... we are going to bask in this win tonight ... and then we’re moving on to prepare for Albany (on Thursday).

Dickinson hit 7-of-14 field goals and added three assists and a steal in 29 minutes. He scored 10 his points in the first half when the Bearcats made their first five shots and jumped out to a 14-6 lead. Binghamton shot 54 percent in the first half and took a 35-25 lead into intermission.

Mansell’s game-high 18 points included 10 in the second half. He hit 6-of-10 from the floor and chipped in two assists, two blocks and two steals. Gray also had a career-high tying two blocks.

Gray and Glass was named the America East Players of the Game, 

Binghamton forced 16 turnovers, held UVM to just 39 percent shooting and won for just the seventh time in 26 all-time games against the Catamounts. The Bearcats drew praise from Catamounts first-year coach John Becker for the their tenacity.

“We weren’t ready to play tonight from the jump and credit to Binghamton, they were a tougher team and played harder,” Becker said. “They made a lot of shots tonight, tough ones with the shot clock winding down. We are a young team and I tried to emphasis how tough this game was going to be and I just thought that Binghamton was the tougher team and played better than us tonight.”

The Bearcats return to the Events Center floor in two nights to face longtime SUNY rival Albany in a game televised on ESPN3. Then Binghamton will close out the regular season with an away tilt at New Hampshire on Sunday. 

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