@Binghamton 64, St. Bonaventure 59

Real good win today at the Events Center as the Bearcats showed that they know how to hold on after a solid first half.

Staked to a well-deserved double-digit lead at halftime, the Bearcats kept the pressure on in the second half and won a game that they deserved to win.

Lazar Trifunovic was the obvious star of today's game, scoring 23 points, most of which came off his short one-handed jumpers from the baseline, but I don't think the Bearcats could've pulled this one out without another great performance from Reggie Fuller.

Much like the pre-injury Sebastian Hermenier, Fuller is becoming the glue that holds this team together, reeling in the loose balls and making the hustle plays that made Seabass one of the best Bearcats of all time. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and it paid off today with five blocks.

But this game was not a perfect showing by any means. The most troubling aspect of BU's game today was its inability to inbound the ball under its own basket. America East teams will surely take note of the problems BU's guards had late in the second half as they tried to get the ball in after a bucket. Mike Gordon and Richie Forbes combined for eight turnovers, several of them ugly - including Trifunovic's trying to start a break by dishing the ball to Gordon, who didn't appear to be paying attention.

The Bonnies did a great job battling back in this game, but the ball just didn't bounce their way on several occasions, including a late foul on a three-pointer by Zerreti that could've led to a huge four-point play.

Chretien Lukusa also deserves a bunch of credit for knocking down four big free throws at the end of the game to ice the victory.

So what happens from here? The Bearcats will kick off the America East portion of their schedule on Thursday at Patrick Gymnasium in Vermont, a game that will likely give the Bearcats trouble. Mike Gordon was again gun-shy today, at least in my eyes, and I don't see him getting the best of Mike Tromboli - at least this time. (Keep in mind the Bearcats will have at least one more shot at UVM this year, the second showing at the Events Center.) And despite the stellar play of Trifunovic to this point, if he gets himself in foul trouble at all, (or God forbid gets hurt), it's tough to see who can step into his role in his absence.

The Bearcats learning curve, however shallow, is on the upswing - but I foresee a similar curve coming with the onset of AE play. KB is not as familiar with the rest of the conference as they are to us, and so it might take at least a handful of games for him to get used to the grit of in-conference play. But, I think the team will step it up, especially as they begin to realize that the conference tournament is on the horizon at the EC, and going in as a bottom-half team would be a disappointment and potential embarrassment.

My early gut feeling for Thursday says UVM by 11. I'll post again before the game.


St. Bonaventure @ Binghamton, tomorrow, 4 p.m.

A conversation with an old friend of mine who recently graduated from St. Bonaventure has allowed me a few bits of inside information about the Bonnies - specifically about Tyler Relph and Zarryon (Zee) Fereti, who lit us up for 32 points in the teams' first meeting this year.

Thus, I think I'll take my spot in the Zoo tomorrow afternoon, rather than trying to sit at the table with Brian Moritz (a St. Bonaventure alum) ...

With this new information I've learned, this should be a grand old time tomorrow. I'll take Binghamton by 6 points ...

Notes on the Fordham loss

Chretien Lukusa started the game but played just 11 minutes, while Dwayne Jackson came off the bench with 34 minutes to score 13 points, including 6-of-6 from the FT line. When will DJ get the starting nod? One has to assume tomorrow, against St. Bonaventure.

At halftime, down 39-22, the Bearcats appeared to be done, but a big second-half surge that gained them the lead made this game more promising than the final score sounds. The one thing you could really take from this game is something everyone already knew: the Bearcats have no answer for a dominating big man inside.

Mike Gordon finished this game with 11 FG attempts -- one more than Richie Forbes. Despite Gordon's role at the 1, I think seeing him take 11 shots is promising -- he should continue to try and make himself a big part of the offense. For the Bearcats to succeed, Mike will have to be a scoring threat himself, keeping other AE teams honest and potentially opening up the other shooters that Mike's trying to set up.

Despite their poor record to this point, I think BU has at least started to turn things around heading into conference play - but I'll be able to tell you much more definitively tomorrow, after I see the St. Bonaventure game live.

@Fordham 72, Binghamton 60

... about the best you could've expected from Binghamton at this point.

Recap coming tomorrow afternoon.


@Binghamton 75, Chicago St. 55

The Bearcats avenged an early-season loss to Chicago St. with a 20-point victory this afternoon at the Events Center.

BU opened with a 20-2 run and never looked back.

I don't have much to say about this one, because Chicago St. is terrible. Truth be told, we should have trounced them the first time we played them, too. I watched a good portion of this game on the live feed and from the Chicago St. perspective, it was ugly - real ugly.

It was good to see Mike get back on an offensive roll, with 15 points. They will certainly need that kind of contribution to see any sort of success in conference play.

Friday will be a good test, at Fordham, and I'll have a live report from the St. Bonaventure game one week from tomorrow.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

10:00 Remaining ...

... the Bearcats are up 57-36, but perhaps more notably:

What the heck was that Pac-Man thing that just ran across the court and ate somebody? Can we get a permanent mascot like that?

Even I don't think we can blow a 21-point lead at this point.

More thoughts on this game later tonight.

BU women lose again ...

... 68-67, home to Lehigh, in double overtime. The Bearcats blew what felt like an insurmountable eight-point lead in the second extra period. A moderate press led to a pivotal back-court violation late in the period, when BU needed to at least milk 25 seconds from the clock, if not put points on the board.

It's still relatively early in the season, as AE play has not begun yet, but with a talented squad that features two top-tier players -- Laine Kurpniece and Laura Sario, who both received tons of pre-season hype ... when will pundits start to question Rich Conover?

Bearcat men home to Chicago St. tomorrow afternoon, live video starts at 2 p.m. Early prediction - Bearcats by 4.


A Brief Hiatus

In related news, the BU women's team massacred Colgate today by 46 points, by far their biggest margin of victory ever. I'd say Colgate's 16-minute scoreless run to finish off the first half probably didn't help their cause this afternoon.

On the men's side, the Bearcats are off until next Saturday, when they'll take on Chicago State on the back end of this year's home-and-home. I was planning to stay in Binghamton this week until right after that game but due to unforeseen circumstances, I will be driving home tomorrow and staying on Long Island until the 26th.

I'll have a live report on the St. Bonaventure game, perhaps with some exclusive quotes (I might get to use the Pipe Dream courtside seat for that game, but we'll see), and as the conference schedule starts up shortly after New Year's, I will ramp up my coverage in anticipation of the conference tournament in March.

In the meantime, have a happy holiday season. I will post on Saturday afternoon after the Chicago St. game, which I'll probably watch on the live feed, but until then, sayonara.


@Binghamton 71, George Washington 59

@Bing 71, GW 59 - and just a little bit of dap is all I ask:

"This one's been penciled in as a loss, at least in my book, since the schedule was released, and my sensible side is telling me GW by 12 or so, but I just can't shake that feeling that this one could go Binghamton's way. (And that's not to say they will turn around all the problems they have.) Maybe it's just my instinct telling me that we cannot possibly be this bad, but I'm sensing an upset tomorrow night."

And all the elements for the upset came together tonight: Binghamton was desperate for a win, George Washington appeared to overlook the Bearcats, the guys were extra charged up to get coach Kevin Broadus a win against his old mentor -- and the Colonials shot 3-for-24 from downtown.

Standing in the Zoo tonight, we couldn't help but feel a bit of pride when GW's Rob Diggs missed a *second* dunk with about 2 1/2 minutes left. We ragged Diggs to no end when he missed the first dunk, and I can't help but think that, even if just a tiny bit, we got into his head. (Full disclosure: Diggs still led GW with 20 points and 16 rebounds.)

(And a quick note: If a guy's going 20-16-2 blocks-3 steals --- what the heck is he doing coming off the bench?)

But enough about the crowd - the Bearcats absolutely deserved to win the game tonight, out-hustling GW on rebound after rebound (despite being out-rebounded 38-36, it certainly didn't feel that way). Reggie Fuller's rebounding was stellar tonight, and it appeared that Laz could not be stopped in the first half.

Binghamton did a great job shutting down GW's transition game, with a number of interceptions on fast-break attempts. Richie Forbes, Mike Gordon and Fuller all did a terrific job quickly getting back into defensive position.

The Bearcats shot just 4-for-14 from downtown, but that was one more make than the Colonials had in 24 attempts. The difference tonight was pressure on most of the opponents' deep attempts -- their poor shooting performance was no fluke, no mistake, despite what coach Karl Hobbs might be saying right now in the postgame. The Bearcats' consistent pressure -- with the exception of a few missed assignments by Milos in the first half that ended up not costing us -- really killed GW tonight.

I was a bit surprised to see Chretien Lukusa, the true freshman, pick up a start tonight. Maybe I'm missing something but I feel like Dwayne Jackson, who played 24 minutes to Lukusa's 23, would be a better fit.

Bing also did a real good job getting to the line tonight -- 40 times. According to Randy Benjenk, who had a better vantage point than I did in the Zoo, coach Hobbs was not pleased with many of the calls in the first half, but I'll put it this way: sometimes, on a special night, everything seems to go your way, and with a win over the defending A-10 champions, that's what happened tonight.

I can't overstate how well Fuller played tonight. I can't honestly tell you I expect the whole season to turn around from this point forward, but I think Fuller could begin to really establish himself as a force on the defensive end if he continues that type of play.

Bleak Forecast for Thursday

Forecasters are calling for 10 inches of snow in the Binghamton area tomorrow. I'll be at the Events Center tomorrow night for the Bearcats' long-awaited showdown with George Washington, even if I have to walk Riverside Drive to get there. It's been a while since the Bearcats have been in action, and I'm anxious to see how they respond to this lengthy layoff.

I know this might sound out of character, but there's a tiny part of me that wants to pick the Bearcats tomorrow night, if only because of the memories I have of old Al Walker teams playing miserably on the road, then coming back and picking up a surprising win at home -- the type of 'wow' win that often shifted the home crowd's opinion of the coaching staff, and probably earned him an extra season at the helm. (Edit: I think the best example I could come up with would be Feb. 27, 2005, when the Bearcats, coming off two consecutive terrible losses at Stony Brook and at Hartford, stunned Boston U. by 17 [the famous Nick Billings three-pointer game] to roll into the postseason at the Events Center with surprising momentum.)

This one's been penciled in as a loss, at least in my book, since the schedule was released, and my sensible side is telling me GW by 12 or so, but I just can't shake that feeling that this one could go Binghamton's way. (And that's not to say they will turn around all the problems they have.) Maybe it's just my instinct telling me that we cannot possibly be this bad, but I'm sensing an upset tomorrow night. Guess we'll see.

- - - - -

Thanks to Brian Moritz for today's blog shout-out. On that note, if you host an America East-themed blog, or you know of a good source for AE coverage, let me know and I'll link to it here.


RPI notes

The first official RPI rankings were released today. Here's how the America East shakes out:

UMBC (58)
UNH (201)
Hartford (212)
UVM (230)
Albany (236)
Maine (270)
Boston U. (290)
Stony Brook (319)
Binghamton (326)

The Bearcats are tied for the worst record in the league with the Seawolves. Binghamton also has the second-weakest strength of schedule in the conference, ahead of only Albany (4-4).

Maryland-Eastern Shore, at 1-9 --- with its lone win of the season coming against SBU --- currently sits at no. 312.

Presbyterian, an independent with a 1-10 mark, currently sits ahead of the Bearcats at no. 325. And Chicago State, another independent, improved to 2-8 yesterday with an 83-69 win over Jackson State.

Eastern Illinois (0-8) currently sits last at no. 341, but squeaking in just ahead of them is North Florida (0-6) at no. 340 --- the same North Florida team that led the Bearcats for 38 minutes at the Events Center on Dec. 17, 2005 --- the day that Jaan Montgomery debuted for Binghamton.

If the America East ever hopes to improve as a league, they cannot sustain three teams with RPIs of 290 or higher. It's early-season performances like Bing, SBU and surprisingly Boston that continue to drag the America East through the mud year after year.


Examining the 1-7 Bearcats

With their ugliest loss yet, a 73-55 disaster at the Events Center against Colgate, still fresh in their memory, the 1-7 Bearcats have a lot of work to do as finals week leads into Thursday night's showdown with George Washington.

A look back on Brian Moritz's preseason preview gives us this telling quote about coach Kevin Broadus' outlook on his first season:

"Our motto this year is we're just going to try to outwork guys," Broadus said. "We may not be the fastest or the biggest team. But we're going to put our best effort forward."

No matter how optimistic your outlook, Wednesday's whooping at the hands of the Red Raiders was proof that there has been minimal improvement since the season-opening whooping at St. Bonaventure. And at 1-7, including a phone-it-in 21-point loss at Chicago State, it's obvious that the Bearcats are not outworking anybody.

The absence of Jaan Montgomery and Minja Kovacevic doesn't help, but I think people overestimate their value to this team. These Al Walker-molded Bearcats are still very much a guard-oriented squad, and there has not been any sort of interior game at the Events Center since Nick Billings' knees went.

So what's going wrong?

I think that Broadus is giving too much freedom to Richie Forbes, a lesson that even Walker learned during conference play last season. Richie can shoot, and will shoot, as much you let him. But I still think Forbes would flourish more as "instant offense" coming off the bench than as your starting two-guard. Dwayne Jackson's defensive prowess is superior to Forbes, and I think players would react to seeing the junior unseat a senior "leader" in the starting lineup by his solid play to this point so far.

If you asked him, Mike Gordon would probably say he enjoys playing alongside his classmate and good friend Forbes, but I think the entire trio -- Gordon, Forbes and DJ -- would benefit from inserting Jackson into the starting lineup -- and boosting his minutes.

Lazar Trifunovic's poor game against Colgate is relatively unavoidable -- he's still only a sophomore and he's prone to, and allowed to, have a subpar performance once in a while. I think he'll be fine against GW.

Some are calling for Broadus to press more, after seeing the success the team had in the last few minutes against Colgate. I think it's pretty obvious that that's not the solution. Pressing is exhausting -- especially for "Magic Mike," who I still believe is not 100%, but we obviously can't afford to rest him -- and if the press gets broken by any competent team (read: not Stony Brook), it's an easy two points. The press is for desperation, and so I think it's a pretty ominous sign if we start seeing more of it.


Colgate 73, @Binghamton 55

Boy, was that ugly.

I'm almost speechless, but that's more a product of this stupid Brit Lit paper I spent all night writing than the miserable performance we put on tonight.

My apologies, right off the bat, to anyone who sat down and watched this game because of my suggestion earlier. Sorry, I'll know better next time.

Basically, we got outplayed, outhustled, outrebounded and simply dominated tonight by a team that's not all that good. This was certainly a game we could've won, as were CCSU, Chicago State and St. Bonaventure. Instead, we've lost them all.

And contrary to what we've seen in the last few games, there was absolutely no improvement tonight at all. Richie Forbes continues to give a good effort when his shots drop, and a half-hearted effort after his misses. And in both instances, he's often caught out of position. There was one three-pointer Colgate had tonight where the shooter could've stood there and counted the dimples on the ball before knocking it down.

Colgate's three-point shooting certainly seemed worse than 6-for-11. They shot lights out, and it was not luck-based -- the Bearcats were often found out of position, and the Red Raiders could simply step up and drill threes at will. At will!

Alex Woodhouse's monstrous block on Reggie Fuller with about 7 minutes left was, perhaps, the best block I've ever seen live -- and I saw Nick Billings in his prime. Fuller was up with two hands on the ball, moving forward, when Woodhouse got his arm up and cleanly just threw Fuller, via the ball, to the ground. I'd love to see a replay of it if at all possible -- it was just a straight up embarrassment, of a guy going up for the most energizing play possible.

(Well, scratch that -- Gordon's alley-oop to Fuller in the first few minutes of that first half was pretty sweet and very energizing ...)

If you're just looking at a box score, don't read into the 16 offensive rebounds the Bearcats had. Many of those were third- or fourth-chance tallies after the Bearcats hit, say, the bottom of the rim on a lay-up.

Jaan got into the game tonight and threw a pretty sweet forearm shiver at a guy. He also had a nice block, but showed a lot of the same rust on the offensive end that we've come to know from Jaan. (And if you think Mountie Monty's offense is awkward, just wait until you get Minja back on the hardwood.)

Fuller's defense in the full-court press was encouraging, and it shows in the box via his 5 steals.

Milos is a bust. I'm done with him. He doesn't do anything or move at all. He's like a svelte Schafer Jackson. Stick him on the bench between Lawrence Brennaman and manager Jake Altman.

Laz has to situate himself within 12 feet of the bucket to produce. When you give him the ball outside the arc, that's just too far for your big man to go, no matter how quick you think he is. That was really exposed tonight as Laz spent much of the end of the game on the bench after tallying 5 ugly turnovers.

I'm ready to see Richie Forbes coming off the bench again. The guy just costs you too much on the defensive end.

No matter what anyone says, the refs did not cost us this game, at all. The officiating wasn't great, but it wasn't awful, and it's not like we didn't get our share of calls, too -- most memorably, a CU player was called for traveling after being bearhugged by Milos.

Again, the important thing to take from this game is that Binghamton just came in and completely laid an egg in the second half. No matter what the newspapers tell you, there was no improvement at all tonight, on any front -- save for, possibly, Reggie Fuller's full-court press.


Colgate @ Binghamton, 7 p.m.

Binghamton will take on Colgate (5-3) of the Patriot league, with tipoff coming about one hour from right now. I'm in the PODS on campus right now and will have a full report on this game tonight, after I finish my Brit Lit II final paper, which is due at 11:40 tomorrow morning.

Colgate is coming off a win over Cornell, who beat us last week. On paper, this looks to be a pretty even matchup, but I've got to give the edge to the Bearcats on their home court tonight. The team isn't great, but they're not 1-7 bad, and it's obvious that BU is due for a win. With GW up next, I don't expect the Bearcats to stumble tonight -- although who knows.

This game should be worth watching, if you've got a couple free hours and a high-speed connection at home. I'll do my best to get the Zoo fired up ...

The Bearcats have played pretty well at home this year, and much like was the case with the men's soccer team, they can turn that into all that really matters, with the AE Tournament coming back to the Events Center in March. If this team can continue to win at home, the fan base will give the team a pass on road games -- much like was the case in 2004-05, when the Bearcats' stellar home play overshadowed their generally weaker road showings (save for Troy Hailey, who was always traditionally a stronger performer on the road).

If you're still following at home, let's cross our fingers for the big career milestone tonight -- senior Giovanni Olomo needs just FOUR points to reach the big 1-0-0. Party like a rockstar!

(And for the record -- I really don't want to do this Brit Lit paper.)

More coming later on.


RIP Andy Uwadinobi

A quick brief non-basketball-related note.

Rest in Peace Andy Uwadinobi, an 18-year-old BU student who died in Mohawk Hall last night.

Every year, it seems one or two students pass away, and it never gets any easier to think about. It's so scary to think about life ending so soon. To all who knew and loved Andy, my deepest condolences.



@Rider 81, Binghamton 73

Binghamton fell to 1-6 yesterday afternoon with an eight-point loss at Rider, 81-73.

Richie Forbes had 23 points and six steals, and the Bearcats staged a gutsy comeback, but it wasn't enough to erase a 16-point deficit with 5:48 to play.

Still no Jaan Montgomery, but I anticipate him returning this week -- the Bearcats were once again out-rebounded, this time by a 43-29 margin.

I've got to wonder if Mike Gordon is more injured than he's letting on. He played a team-high 34 minutes but took only four shots, and I know he's a pass-first PG, but four attempts is uncharacteristically low for the team's best player.

The Bearcats now return home for three straight at the Events Center, starting Wednesday night against Colgate. They'll play four of their final five OOC games on campus before kicking off conference play with a stiff challenge at UVM on January 3.

I'll post a much more extensive analysis on Wednesday night.
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