Binghamton University senior guard Jimmy Gray hit a 3-point shot with 3 seconds to play on Saturday afternoon in The Pit at the Memorial Gym to finish off a 12-point, second-half comeback as the University of Maine men’s basketball team fell 57-56.
“Obviously they made a big shot down the stretch but we certainly feel like there were a lot of things we could have done to play better in that basketball game. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for us,” said UMaine head coach Ted Woodward.
Gray made all four of the Bearcat’s 3 pointers in the game and was second in scoring with 14 points. Freshman guard Jordan Reed scored 15 of his team-leading 20 points in the second half, as the Bearcats dominated the Black Bears down low and took advantage of a poor second half shooting percentage by UMaine to claw their way back.
“We struggled,” said UMaine junior forward Alasdair Fraser. “A lot of shots we normally make didn’t fall. It’s hard to win when you’re not making shots.”
With the Bearcats coming in with a 2-16 record and the Black Bears playing stingy defense and moving at a quicker pace in the early going, it looked like UMaine would coast to victory.
The Black Bear’s man-to-man defense kept the ball on the perimeter, and UMaine’s fast break helped them jump out to a 6-2 lead. UMaine sophomore guard Xavier Pollard and senior center Mike Allison led the way early on with Pollard pushing the ball up the court Allison finishing down low or at the free-throw line.
Binghamton senior forward Javon Ralling and junior forward Alex Ogundadegbe started using back-door passes down low to penetrate the UMaine defense and brought the Bearcats to within 2 points before UMaine sophomore guard Zarko Valjarevic and Gray traded 3s to make the score 14-13 in favor of UMaine with 9:48 to play in the first half.
With 8:53 to play in the first half, Pollard threw up an alley-oop to what looked to be nobody until sophomore guard Justin Edwards came running in and dunked it behind his head, igniting a 12-0 UMaine run.
The Black Bears carried the momentum into halftime with a 32-21 lead, 38 percent shooting and 12 forced Bearcat turnovers. Edwards and Allison led the team with 9 points while Reed was second in scoring with 4 points and led Binghamton with 5 rebounds.
The Bearcats came out of the locker room in the second half and stepped up their defensive game. Binghamton forced UMaine to take bad shots, created turnovers and gained a couple of points on a goaltending call. These kinds of mistakes, along with poor shooting, would plague the Black Bears during the second half.
“I thought we got off to a good start in the first half,” Woodward said. “In the second half we just didn’t execute. This is our fifth game of the year with us being down on the glass. They got some key second shots and key second baskets. Some of those second shots came down to the post men.”
“We practice zone every practice, so we didn’t really have any problem,” Edwards said. “It’s just that their shots were falling, and when our shots aren’t falling, it’s kind of hard to score a lot. The bottom line is, our shots weren’t falling today.”
UMaine’s 44-32 lead, with 12:25 to play, would be the Black Bears’ largest lead for the rest of the game, as Reed and Ralling went to work underneath, and Gray made a couple 3 pointers, as the Bearcats went on a 9-0 run that lasted 4 minutes and 11 seconds.
“We had Jimmy Gray slowed down for a while, but their interior guys like Ralling did a good job attacking us,” Woodward said. “We could not get stops. We did not do a good job on the defensive end.”
Black Bear junior forward Jon Mesghna made a 3 pointer to break UMaine out of their scoring slump, bringing the score to 47-41 with 7:14 to play. However, Gray made a 3 pointer to bring the Bearcats back to within three. After an Ogundadegbe lay-up and Ralling and-one, Binghamton took their first lead of the game with 4:47 to play with a score of 48-47.
Over the next 3 minutes, Reed scored the next six points for Binghamton wile Fraser and Valljaravic hit a mid-range jumper and 3 pointer respectively to bring the score to 54-54, and UMaine called their final timeout with 34 seconds to play.
Out of the timeout, Edwards took the ball, stood and waited until there were 12 seconds to play, then he drove in and missed a floater off the glass. Fraser tipped the rebound in and UMaine took a 56-54 lead with 9 seconds left.
Binghamton inbounded the ball to Gray, who sprinted up the court almost untouched and was open for a 3. Gray hit the 3 with 2 seconds to play with the score at 57-56 in favor of the Bearcats.
With no timeouts, Mesghna had no choice but to throw up desperation shot from the opposite end foul line, and it bounced off the rim at the buzzer to give Binghamton a 57-56 win.
“The whole plan was not to trade baskets,” Mesghna said. “But I took the last shot because, when I got the ball, Justin was already at half court. I saw that there was 3 seconds, I saw that Justin was there, but I didn’t want to risk a pass maybe getting deflected so I just took the last shot. Obviously it had a chance. Every shot has a chance.”
The win is Binghamton’s first road win of the year and first America East win of the year, while UMaine has now dropped three games in a row.
The Bearcats now own a 3-16 record and will face the University of New Hampshire Wildcats Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.
UMaine falls to 7-11 with their next contest coming at home in the Alfond Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m., against the University of Vermont Catamounts. The game will be aired on ESPN3.com.