(Durham NH) UNH nearly tied the game twice in the closing seconds.
But they didn’t and Binghamton escaped with a 72-69 win in the quarterfinals of the American East Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
Great crowd with plenty of things to react to.
Twelve lead changes and six ties kept the excitement going to the end.
The Bearcats took the lead for good (57-55) with 6:49 left. The excitement thereafter was over the desperate chase the Wildcats undertook trying to win or force overtime.
They came close.
A tying triple by senior Nick Guadarrama with fifteen seconds left was negated by an illegal screen (Nick Johnson).
“With fifteen seconds left in the game, that’s a pretty tough call,” said UNH coach Bill Herrion afterwards, “but I’ll have to look at the film.”
The Wildcats (15-13) got another chance after Jake Falko missed the front end of a one-and-one with eleven seconds left.
Blondeau Tchoukuiegno launched a three-pointer before the buzzer with John McGriff defending which rimmed out.
“I personally thought it was going in,” said a disappointed Blondeau afterwards.
The #6 Bearcats were improbable winners. They had lost three straight and six of their last seven games. The Wildcats had beaten them twice this season.
But it didn’t matter.
“The key to the win was limiting UNH to eight offensive rebounds,” explained Bearcats coach Levell Sanders post-game. “The other two games with us they had double-digits.”
“We also were able to cut back the number of points we gave up off of turnovers,” he added.
The actual key may well have been the return of Jake Faldo to the Binghamton lineup. The scoresheet certainly suggests it strongly with Jake totally twenty-one points.
“Jake came in and gave us a spark,” said Coach Sanders. “He gives our team confidence just by being on the court.”
Jake has worked hard to get back on the court after missing two games. “I was doing therapy (on his ankle) for hours a day,” Jake said. “Yesterday, I was finally able to do everything full speed.”
Jake had a rough final minute of the game with a turnover and a missed free throw but the points he gave the Bearcats from long and close range were crucial.
Coach Herrion: “We did a good job of containing him (Jake Falko) in the game at Binghamton. Coming into this one he was 19-for-70 on three’s. Today he made four (of seven). Many of the three’s were at the end of shot clocks. He is a great driver and scorer to the basket.”
Coach Herrion faulted his team’s inconsistent defense and poor foul shooting for the loss.
“Our defense wasn’t good enough to win this game,” he said. “It has been a problem for us this season off-and-on.”
The UNH foul shooting was a serious problem. When you go 10-for-22, you’re asking for trouble. When you lose a game by three points you know where to look back to for an explanation.
“The big thing in the loss was the missed free throws,” admitted Jayden Martinez, who missed four of them. “You try not to let it get to you during the game.”
With the win, #6 Binghamton moves on to visit #1 Vermont in the semifinals. Good luck to them…….and they’ll need plenty! The Catamounts will be in the semifinals for the 20th time in the last 21 seasons. They have also won twenty of their last twenty-two games and have won the AEC championship six years in a row. They’re good, very good. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Christian Hinckson scored Binghamton’s first nine points and never scored again. He did take in a game-high twelve rebounds.
The UNH band never fails to impress me. They can play, are timely, and are loud.
“It was a great crowd,” said Coach Herrion. “We would love to have them here on a nightly basis.”
Binghamton 36 36 = 72
UNH 34 35 = 69
(The pictures will enlarge.)