make statement in 61-50 win over Vermont
VESTAL, N.Y. - Binghamton (11-8, 6-3 AE) shot 50% in the second half and held off visiting Vermont (12-9, 6-3 AE) 61-50 in front of 2,009 fans at West Gym Sunday afternoon. The victory, arguably the biggest in the program's short Division I tenure, lifted the Bearcats into a second-place tie with the Catamounts in the America East Conference.
"It was a great win," BU head coach Al Walker said. "Our guys played as hard as they could. We're moving forward. Our crowd was great today."
Seven-foot sophomore center Nick Billings (Kodiak, Alaska) was a force in the second half, recording a double-double in that half alone. Billings collected all 13 of his points in the final period, and added 11 of his career-high 14 rebounds and five of his eight blocks in the second half.
With Binghamton clinging to a 45-44 lead with 4:59 left. the Bearcats closed out the game on a 16-6 run, which included seven points from Billings and five points from senior forward Jeffrey St. Fort (Miami, Fla./Monsignor Pace). St. Fort nailed 5-of-6 free throws, and Billings electrified the crowd with an offensive board and dunk that boosted a five-point lead to seven, 55-48, with 2:05 left. Junior forward Brandon Carter (McPherson, Kan.) then hit a 12-foot jumper with 1:11 to play, and Billings sank two free throws with 0:48 left to seal the win.
Senior guard Anthony Green (Philadelphia, Pa./Germantown) scored a game-high 21 points, and St. Fort tallied 10. Billings nearly recorded the program's first triple-double, with 13 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks in a season-high 31 minutes.
Vermont was led by sophomore forward Taylor Coppenrath (W. Barnet, Vt./St. Johnsbury Academy), who scored 16 points. The Catamounts were held to a season-low 27% shooting, and hit just 4-of-25 three-point attempts.
The teams struggled throughout the first half, with each team missing 15 of its first 18 shots from the floor. The Bearcats managed to hit six three-pointers in the opening stanza, while Vermont was just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc. BU led at the break, 26-20, and built that lead up to 10, 39-29, before the Catamounts began to chip away.
The Bearcats, who trail league-leading Boston University (7-1) by just 1 1/2 games, next travel to Hartford for a conference tilt on Thursday. In one week, Binghamton will host Boston in the America East TV Game of the Week.
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