Immediate Release: December 21, 2006
by Van Gundy address, BU men's basketball stuns ACC member Miami
The trip to Miami began rather ominously, when the teams commercial plane lost the use of one of its engines on its descent, which necessitated a hasty greeting from assorted fire and rescue vehicles on the runway. But one day later in the BankUnited Center, the Binghamton mens basketball team was clicking on all cylinders as it shocked University of Miami 79-74 in the greatest victory in the programs history.
On December 20, head coach Al Walkers Bearcats came into an Atlantic Coast Conference arena and promptly shot 57% to steal a win from the Hurricanes, who just two weeks earlier opened conference play with a win over No. 21 Georgia Tech. It was highest profile opponent BU has beaten in its short six years of Division I basketball and it came nearly five years to the day after Binghamton gained national notoriety with a near-upset of another ACC school, North Carolina.
This was a matchup of a Binghamton program that was rated No. 271 (out of 336) against a No. 96 Miami program that won 18 games and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals a year ago. A Miami program that boasted the top scorer in the ACC in guard Jack McClinton (19.8 ppg.). A Miami program that was 29-4 all-time against non-conference opponents at home.
This is a great win for our program and for our University, Walker said. Im so proud of our guys. They made shots and grabbed some big rebounds down the stretch.
Perhaps inspired by a pregame pep talk from Walkers former college teammate and roommate and former Miami Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy, the Bearcats overcame a flurry of fouls called against them early, took control of the game in the first half and then withstood every run that Miami threw at them.
It may have been difficult for college basketball newcomers to determine which was the premier scorer in his conference McClinton or 6-foot Binghamton guard Richard Forbes. While the Bearcats limited McClinton to just three points in the first half, Forbes went off for 15 of his game-high 27 points. The Canes couldnt stop his penetration and Forbes alternated between driving to the hoop and sticking jumpers. With the score tied at 26-all, Forbes scored BUs final 10 points in a span of 4:13, including a deep three pointer in the closing seconds to give the Bearcats a 36-33 lead at intermission.
Then something special happened. Instead of running out of steam, or succumbing to superior skill, athleticism or pressure in the pivotal second half, as tends to be the case when a low-major program plays a high major, Binghamton seized its opportunity and closed out the victory with style.
Among other things, Van Gundy spoke to the players about having humility. He shared lessons of how humble his former NBA star Dwyane Wade is. The Bearcats, who were humbled with three straight defeats, including a sobering 35-point loss to Akron two weeks earlier, shared that lesson of humility with the Hurricanes.
Our attitude was, Binghamton, where is that? UM guard Denis Clemente said after the loss. Everybody thought, Were from the ACC. Were going to beat them.
As Miami Herald reporter Manny Navarro wrote, Binghamton didnt get the memo.
In his game-day talk with the team, Van Gundy also spoke about being responsible responsible to your teammates on the floor. The Bearcats surely took that to heart, as they played like a cohesive team in the decisive second half, and shot a school-record 71% to earn the victory. With Forbes and senior guard Steve Proctor (20 pts.) leading the way, BU hit 17-of-24 from the floor, held the rebounding edge and sank the crucial free throws in the closing minutes to seal the win.
We worked too hard NOT to win this game, Forbes said afterwards. We had chemistry and everything just clicked tonight. We all bonded and everyone played a role.
Everyone had to. The Bearcats were put behind the proverbial eight ball immediately, as they were whistled for five fouls in the first four minutes of the game and 16 fouls in the first half. Miami was already shooting the 1-and-1 bonus after just six minutes and the foul calls forced an exacerbated Walker to shuffle his lineup.
While Forbes and Proctor provided most of the scoring punch, Serbian freshman Lazar Trifunovic showed off an array of inside moves and short hooks that belied his experience. Trifunovic scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half, including six during a 2:41 span as the teams traded buckets at a fast pace.
Senior starting guard Troy Hailey, the teams only four-year player and a 47% shooter from beyond the arc, was tagged with four fouls in the first half and was limited to just 14 minutes of action his season low. But there was Hailey in the closing seconds, with BU clinging to a 77-74 lead, grabbing a key defensive rebound and calmly sinking both free throws with 9.4 seconds left to seal the win.
Senior forward Duane James outmuscled Miami players on the glass and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. James, a Miami native, benefitted from Walkers practice of scheduling games against prominent teams in each players hometowns before they graduate. His friends and family were among an estimated 300 boisterous Binghamton fans who savored the victory.
In the end, an exhausted and sweat-drenched Walker shared his own personal triumph with Van Gundy and Stans father, Bill Van Gundy, who coached both men at SUNY Brockport in the early 1980s. Five years ago, Binghamtons near-upset of the Tar Heels in the Dean Smith Center made national headlines but it was a loss. This time around, the little guy, the humble and responsible little guy took it a step further. Binghamton delivered the knockout blow and chalked up victory number one against the elite ACC.
Early the next morning, the team boarded the plane with a two-game sweep of Florida opponents and a three-game win streak as carry-on luggage. And the plane ride back to Binghamton was as smooth as could be.
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