Binghamton 69, @Maine 58

First place into February! Who'dve thunk it?

Binghamton's through the tougher half of its conference schedule at a 6-2 mark, with first place (with the tiebreaker over UMBC, at this point) in its pocket.

The Bearcats closed out a closer-than-it-sounded 9-point victory today with some good loose-ball play from Mike Gordon and Dwayne Jackson in the closing seconds. (That, and Maine's not very good in the clutch.)

Of course, Gordon, Jackson, Lazar Trifunovic, Reggie Fuller, and Kevin Broadus have all played pivotal roles in the team's success this season, but -- and I'm going a bit out on a limb here -- the most important Binghamton University Bearcat, right now, might just be ...

Mark Macyk.

Just hear me out.

Macyk, if you don't know, is Pipe Dream's Sports Editor, the guy in charge of reminding thousands of BU students on Tuesday that the Bearcats are coming out of winter break in first place. He's the guy in charge of previewing Saturday's big rematch with Hartford, a winnable game against a team that squeaked past us on their home court. And he's, more or less, the guy in charge of getting the BU Zoo out in droves for the team's remaining five home regular-season games.

Call me crazy, but I genuinely believe that karma and energy play more of a role in each game than most people believe. The Bearcats have been outstanding at home -- just take a look at the last few minutes of the UMBC game -- but with a rowdy student section and a pumped-up community crowd, Binghamton University's Events Center has the potential to become a truly special arena.

Joel Thirer knew it when the place was built. Lois DeFleur knew it when the place was built. Al Walker knew it when the place was built. But for four long, painfully up-and-down years, the community and the student body could never embrace a team and a coach that they did not really believe in.

Now, things have changed. People believe in Kevin Broadus. People believe in Lazar Trifunovic. And if you don't believe in Mike Gordon by now, you don't know Binghamton basketball.

There's been a sense of trepidation surrounding the Bearcats since January 31, 2004, when Brandon Carter killed Hartford with an unforgettable second half, but the crowd still said, "Ehh ... they're still the Bearcats. They'll blow it. Al will blow it."

First place, new coach, America East tournament coming to Vestal. People believe now. And if they don't believe, Macyk (and Moritz -- sorry, I'm biased toward student support) will make them believe.

- - - - -

How about that Giovanni Olomo!

Bearcats leading @Maine, 44-37, 12:30 to go

Missed a preview for this game, sorry.

Bearcats are leading by 7 midway through the second half; let's see if BU can hold off a bad opponent.


Binghamton 67, @ UNH 58

Break up the Bearcats!

Binghamton remained in first place with an impressive win at New Hampshire on Thursday night. Lazar Trifunovic (or LT, as Roger Neel affectionately calls him these days) led the Bearcats with 19 points, but the story has to be the team effort the Bearcats put on on the offensive end.

Four Bearcats reached double-figures: two seniors (Gordon and Forbes) and two underclassmen (Jackson and LT). Reggie Fuller just missed being the fifth Bearcat with 10 points, adding 9 points and 9 rebounds.

The big difference between this Bearcat team and teams of the past is that spread-out, balanced offense. Previously, it would take one big performance from somebody to lead Binghamton to victory. This year, nobody needs to have a monster game, although Trifunovic is quickly developing as one of the best offensive forwards in the league. Even Richie Forbes is accepting his secondary role as the team continues to roll.

The spread offense allows Broadus enough options to not have to worry about one guy being shut down. Other teams would love to double Trifunovic on the block, but you can't afford to leave someone else open - the 'Cats' savvy passing will find the open man, and BU is among the league leaders in three-point shooters.

I think the other big difference this year has to be Reggie Fuller. He brings the intangibles that really hold a team together, grabbing the tough rebound or picking up a loose ball in a tight spot. Those little things make a difference in a league laden with so much parity.

I still think that it's crucial for the Bearcats to establish either Giovanni Olomo or Jaan Montgomery on the inside, but as each game goes by, Fuller continues to prove me wrong. He's certainly not your traditional back-to-the-basket big man, but LT is establishing himself as enough of a Tim Duncan/Shawn Kemp-type power forward that the team can survive without an offensive force on the post.

- - - - -

In unrelated news, there's a nice piece about me on the Huntington School District Web site here. Check it out if you've got a minute.


Binghamton @ UNH, tonight at 7

I'm pretty torn about tonight's game. On the one hand, Binghamton's been on a big roll lately. On the other hand, they sure are due for a let down.

I've got to run to work, but I think there's been a little too much hype, a little too much purported momentum around our beloved 'Cats. Bill Herrion will figure out a way to slow down Laz tonight, and UNH will pull out a tighter-than-it-sounds 6-point victory, although I'm in no way confident about this prediction.


@ Binghamton 62, UMBC 59

Who would've thought that the day after a game featuring Mike Gordon, Lazar Trifunovic and the heralded 'Transfer Trio' that I'd be writing about Giovanni Olomo?

Absolutely everybody has written off Olomo, and for fair reason -- hasn't played in weeks, hasn't reached 100 points for his career, has been a perennial disappointment and a foul machine.

Was yesterday's performance a breakout game for Giovanni Olomo?

If it was, I legitimately think the rest of the America East is in trouble.

Honestly, I thought Olomo was a candidate for America East Player of the Game (of course, Reggie Fuller certainly deserved it as well). He gathered six offensive rebounds and scored a stunning five points, including a three-point play that obviously energized all the Bearcats on the court and the bench.

When Olomo checked in, the Retrievers defensively left the middle wide open, and for good reason: Gio has never, ever been any sort of offensive threat. But Gio's persistent rebounding in the second half made UMBC pay bigtime - this was a game decided by a couple of possessions, and Giovanni Olomo made that difference.

But on to another unsung senior from yesterday's game: Richie Forbes.

Just 11 minutes from the Bearcats' outspoken back-up 2-man, and although they were 11 productive minutes, I'm more concerned about Forbes' future.

The team has already seen what happens when you mouth off about playing time to Kevin Broadus -- Devon McBride is no longer a Bearcat. And while I think that Richie Forbes will not reach that level, when the BU Zoo returns next week, one has to wonder which Richie Forbes will take the court: one who's upset about playing time and a new job as a role player, or the current Richie Forbes, who, it appears, is embracing any role as long as the team wins.

In his limited time, I think Forbes is actually playing almost as well as he ever has. Playing him in short spurts gives him a chance to go all-out on defense, as it's obvious he's trying to earn back his playing time. (Note: I realize he's also coming off of an injury, but if KB wanted him out there, he'd be out there.) Part of the reason the team is coming together so well is because Forbes is embracing his new role, and I truly believe one of the fulcrums of the team's immediate future is whether or not he can continue to enjoy winning without being a critical part of it.

- - - - -

I think it's important to keep yesterday's win in perspective. Absolutely, it was a great win, but it's still quite early in conference play, and the Bearcats will need to play as they did yesterday to continue their success in a league that's displaying more parity than I anticipated.

Binghamton 62, UMBC 59 is probably more significant to the Retrievers, to tell the truth. UMBC is a well-run program with an outstanding young coach, Randy Monroe, who will pull his team through this brief burst of adversity. But with losses now to Maine and Binghamton, there's legit proof now that UMBC is not unbeatable, not a step above everyone else in the conference.

- - - - -

There's no question in my mind that Kevin Broadus thinks that this is Lazar Trifunovic's team. Even on a day when Laz was just miserable, take my word for this, as SOON as Brian Hodges missed that free throw, Broadus grinned widely, as if he knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball -- inside to Laz. Of course, it worked.

And I'll say this one more time, just for emphasis: If KB can get a similar performance out of Giovanni Olomo on a given day, the Bearcats will beat anybody in the conference. Not can, will.


UMBC at Binghamton, starting shortly

Leaving now for the EC.

UMBC presents all kinds of matchup problems, from swingman Brian Hodges, who the BU Zoo knows all too well, to big man Cavell Johnson, who has become one of the most dominant players in the AE this season.

I see all kinds of defensive breakdowns upcoming. UMBC is just too good at this point in the season. I'll stick with my prediction from last night.


UMBC @ Binghamton, 2 p.m. tomorrow

Big game tomorrow -- I'll be there. (Figured out last night that based on my current work schedule, I won't miss another home game.) Let's say, UMBC by 14. Jay Greene ("Midget") with 12 assists.

Nice win on Tuesday night on TV. Stony Brook is the worst team I've ever seen live.

Genuine update tomorrow.


Stony Brook @ Binghamton, 7 p.m.

So for a long time, I was very much looking forward to tonight's game, with god-awful Stony Brook coming to town for a TV game.

Last year, I wrote this controversial piece about how much I hate Stony Brook, and how pitiful their program is. (For the record, I know the piece is largely unprofessional in many ways, but remember that a college newspaper has a much different target audience than a real newspaper, and I really accomplished what I wanted to.)

I got a fierce reaction from SBU center Emanuel Neto via Facebook, who proceeded to read my "interests" and subsequently changed his Facebook 'Status' to 'Chris Strub is going down drown in Dr. Pepper!!!!" I have never been so pleased with the way an article worked out.

I certainly would have loved to go heckle the sanity out of Emanuel Neto tonight - trust me, there's nothing I'd rather do. But a couple months ago, Neto's mother passed away from a long-standing disease. He left the team for a while and obviously must be struggling emotionally throughout this whole season.

Some things are much bigger than sports, especially Binghamton University vs. Stony Brook, and so obviously absolutely ANY family references made to Neto are wildly inappropriate and should result not only in admonishment but also ejection.

That being said, we really should smoke Stony Brook tonight in front of this regional TV audience. Steve Pikiell is terrible, as are almost all of his players. SBU's 4-11 record is deceivingly positive; they rank no. 327 in RPI (for the record, Maryland-Eastern Shore still manages to sit below SBU, at no. 333).

Stony Brook is regularly the worst team in the league. If we don't beat SBU by 15, I'll be very disappointed.


More on the Albany win

A nice piece by official friend of the blog Brian Moritz in today's Press & Sun discussed Dwayne Jackson's role as the sixth man on this year's Bearcats team:

"My role is to do some of the little things," Jackson said. "Offensive rebounding, playing better defense and just taking my time on offense."

Of course, Jackson is not the guard that everyone's buzzing about tonight, as 'Magic' Mike lit it up for 32 this afternoon at SEFCU, but DJ picked up a quiet 10 points, 2 assists and a steal in 26 minutes, while freshman Brandon Herbert (who?) made his first career start.

Perhaps Broadus and/or Jackson embrace DJ's role as the sixth man, much as Richie Forbes was Al Walker's "instant offense" last season, but I don't. Jackson brings it every time he steps onto the court, and now in his junior year, the kid deserves a starting spot. At 6'3", he'd add at least a bit of height to the Bearcats' small, center-less lineup (Gio, where have you gone?), and his three-point shooting is a nice plus.

He'll certainly start next year, or so I would assume, with Gordon and Forbes both graduating, and with Forbes out with a "knee injury" (according to Moritz), now is the time for DJ to embrace the the role of a starting 2-guard.

- - - - -

Y'know, I joke about Gio because I like the guy, but it's really becoming a trend around Vestal to see big man after big man fizzle out. Broadus announced his love for Jaan Montgomery shortly after arriving last spring, but Jaan has certainly not panned out, picking up minimal minutes after a nagging injury. Olomo appears to be injured recently, but you'd never realize it because he never played even before he was hurt. Kovacevic is hurt, and you can try and sell me all you want on his potential, but his offensive skill set is somewhere between "nothing" and "Jaan Montgomery."

The America East is just itching to be dominated by a young up-and-coming big man who can take over a game from the post. If you don't believe me, look at the first couple years of Nick Billings (or at least where he would've ended up had he not caught the injury bug), or the last couple years of Chris Holm up in Vermont. Albany fans saw flashes of what could've been with Kirsten Zoellner, while Kenny Adeleke completely dominated during his brief stint at Hartford.

Gio, Jaan and Minja are not the answer. Nor is the undersized Reggie Fuller (he's good, but not a center), nor is Lazar Trifunovic (see: power forward). Now, all the recruiting buzz for 2008-09 is focused on two flashy guards with plenty of baggage. Again, today's performance by Mike Gordon notwithstanding, one has to wish that the recruiting focus turn to a 6'10"-or-taller big man to clog up the lane and open up all these spot-up shooters (no, not Schafer Jackson) that Vestal seems to produce.

- - - - -

(And by the way -- I told you Gordon could shoot.)

Binghamton 71, @Albany 57


Turns out I was way, way, way off the mark about this game. Mike Gordon tied a D-1 school record with 32 points, with 20 in the first half, including 8-of-11 from downtown.

In other news, well, I was also wrong about the women's game - @Binghamton 59, Boston 55.


Just about six minutes in and Mike Gordon has 14 points, including 4-for-4 from downtown. The kid can shoot.

@Hartford 80, Binghamton 79 | Binghamton @ Albany, 2 p.m.

Lots to catch up on today.

Binghamton dropped a "heartbreaker," 80-79, Wednesday night at Hartford. The Bearcats were led by Dwayne Jackson's 24 points off of the bench, but Mike Gordon was unable to sink a half-court prayer at the buzzer that probably would've given Dan Leibowitz nightmares for the remainder of his career.

(And by the way, if you think these buzzer-beaters never go down, do yourself a favor: click this link and watch the last 9 seconds of the Hartford @ Boston women's game from last Saturday. Keep in mind that Hartford's women are like the 2002, 2003, 2004 Vermont men's teams that were basically unbeatable ... it's moments like that that make basketball a great sport.)

Anyway, the prediction was a close game at Hartford and it came true. Wednesday night was a back-and-forth contest that featured a little too much 'back' and not quite enough 'forth' for the Bearcats; it's not the end of the world, of course, but stupid losses like this one are what end up really stinging when the conference tournament rolls around in March, and you're jockeying for a better seed.

The Bearcats' 0-8 mark on the road is, I have to admit, a bit tough to stomach, especially considering it will most likely become 0-9 at about 3:55 p.m. today. It's nice to remember that the conference tournament will be held at the Events Center, and, much like our men's soccer team, if we can just "protect this house" throughout the conference season, the home-court advantage will be especially strong. However, good teams learn how to win on the road, and the Bearcats did not deserve to win on Wednesday night. It took a heroic comeback to get within striking distance in the final moments, and that shouldn't happen against a poor team like Hartford.

Perhaps my goals are too lofty for a man in his first season as a head coach, but I like to think we're talented enough to go to Hartford - hardly a very difficult road trip - and put up a convincing win. Regardless, I still think that the Bearcats will improve (there's that buzzword again) throughout conference play and earn one of the top four seeds in the AE tournament.

That said, today's going to be a tough day. The Bearcats always struggle at Albany, and I don't see that changing today. A loss today makes Wednesday's loss seem much tougher; 2-2 sounds much, much nicer than 1-3, and while I'm not completely counting out the 'Cats today -- especially with a poor turnout anticipated during Albany's winter break -- I don't think that this game's going to turn out well. In fact, I'm predicting it could get ugly ... fast.

The pick? Great Danes by 17, in what will amount to an early-season "wake-up call" for an 0-9-on-the-road Kevin Broadus.

(I'm also thinking about checking out today's women's conference opener at the Events Center, as Boston comes to town to face Laine Kurpniece and co. I'm not expecting good things in that one, either. Although I want to go, and I certainly could, the prospect of watching today's men's game on live video appears to be just too tempting ...)


Binghamton @ Hartford, tonight at 7

The last five matchups between Hartford and Binghamton have been decided by six points or less, and I would expect tonight's game to be no different.

The Bearcats dominated Boston in their last time out, but their efforts at the Events Center and on the road have been like night and day. I could see Bing coming out and flopping a bit, but Hartford has certainly not been a team to brag about in their OOC schedule this year, with losses to teams like Quinnipiac, Long Island and St. Francis dotting their 6-9 record.

Despite that, I really liked Von Rosenberg and Zeglinski last year at the conference tournament; they can really play when they want to turn it on. However, Lazar Trifunovic doesn't appear to have a big challenge on the inside tonight, with the Hawks starting a pair of freshmen who aren't exactly tearing it up in the paint.

Reggie Fuller will give the Hawks fits tonight, as he's the type of player who gives you all kinds of matchup problems if you don't have the type of guy who fits his description.

Hopefully, Dwayne Jackson will pick up 25-30 minutes tonight.

With a determined Hartford squad looking to turn things around with the onset of their conference schedule, and a Bearcats team that is, on paper, that much better than the Hawks this season, I'm calling a close win for the Bearcats tonight - somewhere in the 60's, with BU winning by about 5.

McBride Gone?

Take it for what it's worth, but Devon McBride's Facebook claims that he's not coming back to Binghamton.


Devon McBride

... was not on the bench during today's 20-point victory. According to his Facebook profile, he's back at home with his girlfriend, posting semi-nude pictures of himself online.

He walked off during the second half of the Vermont loss, appearing upset, heading to the locker room followed by an assistant coach.

Keep in mind, this is one of our scholarship players whom we decided to give "another chance" --- much as we're doing with our top two recruits for 2008-09.


@UVM 72, Binghamton 61 (Thursday) - @Binghamton 69, BU 49

My apologies for not blogging after Thursday's game at Vermont - I've been especially preoccupied with the Press & Sun-Bulletin lately, as I will begin my full-time duties on the news desk tomorrow evening.

Anyway, the Bearcats split their first two conference games, opening the AE portion of their schedule with an 11-point loss on Thursday at Patrick Gymnasium. Marques Blakely was the key, as I expected, with 21 points. Blakely, Cieplicki and Trimboli combined for 55 of the Catamounts' 71 points, which I would consider both a blessing - they won the game - and a curse - their bench is bad - for UVM.

The Catamounts outplayed BU with a 1-3-1 zone that seemed to suffocate Lazar Trifunovic, who still ended up with 10 points and 9 rebounds but would still be the first to tell you the loss was on his shoulders.

Mike Gordon paced Binghamton with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Again, I consider this a good sign - even if Bing was significantly outplayed on Thursday.

Richie Forbes came off the bench on Thursday, but was back in the starting lineup today against Boston - a team that's really in trouble.

Let me say this right off the bat - if Dennis Wolff doesn't return to the sidelines for the Terriers next year, BU's AD can point straight to today's performance. Wolffie was significantly out-coached by Kevin Broadus, a first-year coach unfamiliar with the ins and outs of AE play. The Terriers just looked miserable.

The Bearcats' very slow start today was troubling, but they played like the much better team as the first half wound down. Milos actually nailed a couple threes, including the heartbreaker at the very end of the half, a shot that stretched a 10-point Bing lead --- with Boston having just turned the ball over with a chance to cut it to 8 --- to 13.

Lazar again established himself as the game's dominant big man this afternoon, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and adding four assists. And Mike Gordon showed flashes of his junior year self, including a one-handed dunk early on that seemed to fire the Bearcats up after that slow start.

There were a couple of scary moments in today's game; when Tyler Morris opened the scoring with a wide-open three (and no, it was not Richie Forbes who missed the assignment - it was Gordon), and when the Terriers began to rain threes early in the second half to start slicing the lead into single digits. But the Bearcats appear to have learned how to step on a team's throat when they've got them down, and that bodes well for their immediate future.

I'm giving thought to heading to Hartford on Wednesday for the Bearcats' next contest.


Binghamton @ UVM, tonight, 7 p.m.

The Bearcats have dropped four straight America East openers, and I don't expect that trend to change tonight.

Vermont has always given the Bearcats fits, and even though this year's UVM squad doesn't appear quite as intimidating, I expect more of the same tonight. Sophomore forward Marques Blakely is living up to all his pre-season hype; then again, so is Lazar Trifunovic.

The Bearcat role players have been playing better as of late, especially Reggie Fuller. But I still have to lean toward experience over the hot hand, and Kyle Cieplicki has always, always killed us. (How the heck is that guy still around?)

And tonight's game was also expected to be a showdown of two of the league's top point guards -- Mike Gordon and Mike Trimboli. As much as I love Gordon, Trimboli has to have the edge here, especially on his home floor.

One problem UVM could run into is its no-name bench. Other than McIntosh and Powlovich, I've never even heard of anyone on Vermont's bench. And from what I remember, Timmy McCrory felt like a forever bench player to me. The Bearcats have a couple of nice players coming off the bench, especially Dwayne Jackson, for whom I will continue to lobby for playing time as Kevin Broadus continues to bench him.

This game costs $6 to watch on UVM's Web site, so it appears I'll be once again listening to Roger Neel on WNBF this evening. I'll have an update later tonight.

UVM has won eight straight America East openers, and will raise their 2007 Regular Season champs banner to the rafters tonight. This is by no means a must-win for the Bearcats, and so I see UVM pulling ahead to win this game by 10.
ping Bearcat Country www.bearcatcountry.blogger.com