VESTAL, N.Y. (AP) — Mark Macon took a little longer than usual in the locker room after his Binghamton Bearcats had lost yet again. It was understandable.
“I get on them bad enough,” Macon said Wednesday night in the aftermath of a 70-56 loss to Maryland-Baltimore County. “Especially after certain games, I’ll go crazy on them.”
This was one of those games, as the Bearcats (0-25, 0-13 America East conference) remained the only team in Division I without a victory. Though they started strong and were within a basket after Jimmy Gray’s 3-pointer from the right wing early in the second half, the Retrievers (4-22, 3-11) responded with an 18-8 spurt and there was no late rally to energize the hometown faithful, who had high hopes before the game.
Tom Gaska was perched in his customary seat in the stands behind one of the baskets, saxophone in hand and attired in green — cape and all — as a member of the “Screamin Green” band.
“We’re going to win tonight. This is our night,” said Gaska, an electrical engineer by day and self-described nut case on game days. “We’re going to dominate. You can see they want to win.”
While Gaska was emphatic in his prediction, there weren’t many students in the so-called BU Zoo, and two who did enter the turnstiles and sat behind the pep band were wearing paper bags over their heads at the opening tip.
There was historical basis for Gaska’s good feelings. UMBC (4-22, 3-11) beat the Bearcats 64-58 at home in mid-January, but the Retrievers had dropped seven in a row since and hadn’t fared well in the Events Center, where Binghamton plays its home games.
UMBC entered the game 1-8 in the building and seemed a likely first victim, having lost seven of the last nine to the Bearcats, including a 91-65 blowout in the America East Conference tournament last March.
Chase Plummer helped dash that hope, scoring 15 points to lead three players in double figures for UMBC. The Retrievers dominated 32-18 in the paint and got 36 points from their bench.
“They just beat us inside with Plummer,” Macon said. “They gave the ball to Plummer and he just went to work.”
Joey Getz had 12 points, Jamar Wertz 10, and Chandler Thomas eight for the Retrievers.
Gray led Binghamton with 13 points and Robert Mansell had 12.
Freshman Ben Dickinson, the Bearcats’ second-leading scorer at 12.8 points per game, finished with eight points on 2-of-14 shooting and had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Binghamton shot 34 percent (18 of 53) to UMBC’s 39.7 percent (25 of 63), made one more 3, had one more second-chance point and two more assists, but 10 turnovers in the second half proved too much to overcome.
“They played well as a team and we made mistakes down the line,” Macon said. “We got behind and couldn’t make up the
deficit. We’ve just got a lot of work to do.”
Binghamton, which has lost 15 games by 15 points or more, including a 41-point setback at home to Manhattan in late December and a 34-point shellacking at Stony Brook two weeks ago, has four games left in the regular season to get that elusive first win.
Next up is a nonconference game next week on Saturday at Radford (5-23).
“I want these guys to have a win so bad, but I’m still proud of my guys, and I’ll always be proud of them,” Macon said. “They are giving me something.”
The Bearcats, who were coming off a 62-60 loss at Hartford on Sunday in which they nearly rallied from 14 points down, trailed UMBC just 24-20 at halftime and moved within 28-26 after Gray’s 3 from the right wing with 14:54 left.
The Retrievers responded with that decisive spurt. Brian Neller started the run with a 3 from the top of the key, and Jarrel Lane’s steal and layup and a shot off the glass by Plummer gave UMBC a 35-28 lead.
A 3-pointer by Ryan Cook and layups by Wertz and Thomas boosted the lead to 46-34 with 8 minutes left.
The Bearcats pulled back within 46-38 on Mansell’s driving layup with 6:47 to go, but that was as close as they would get.
“It’s frustrating,” Gray said. “It’s going to take time for us to come together, work hard and get that win. We’ve just got to
run our plays and execute. That’s the big thing.”
The Bearcats got off to a great start, scoring the first five points of the game, a 3-pointer from the left corner by Taylor
Johnston prompting a roar from the crowd.
“There was a little intensity level at the beginning,” said Gray, born and raised in Binghamton. “I think that diminished as
the game got down the line.”
UMBC rallied by dominating inside, tying the game at 9-all on consecutive layups by Thomas and taking the lead on a reverse layup by Jake Wasco. But after hitting 6 of their first 8 shots, the Retrievers sputtered mightily, missing 26 of their final 31 shots of the first half. They took a four-point lead into the locker room because Binghamton wasn’t any better, finishing 7 of 26 (26.9 percent).
The Bearcats drew more than 3,200 in their previous two home dates at the Events Center and despite their futility on the court were averaging a league-high 2,771. They had 2,483 fans on this night as they go after their ninth straight attendance crown in the conference.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)