The Stony Brook men’s basketball team saw “déjà vu all over again” on Wednesday, Jan. 22 as they fell 83-79 to the Binghamton Bearcats (8-11, 2-4) at Island Federal Arena. The Seawolves (13-8, 4-2) entered the game looking to avenge last March’s improbable homecourt upset in the America East Tournament. They left inexplicably stunned again by a team that has been consistently ranked as one of the worst in Division I over the past decade.
“I thought we got outplayed for 40 minutes,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “We were up four and had the game won, and couldn’t get a stop in the last three minutes. We did some things which we talked about not doing.”
Despite poor defensive play throughout, it initially appeared as if the Seawolves would escape – having not lost at home in six straight games – after redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman hit a second-chance three from the right wing to put Stony Brook back up 75-73. Binghamton couldn’t score on its next possession, and junior guard Elijah Olaniyi drove through traffic to complete the layup. Bearcats head coach Tommy Dempsey immediately called timeout as Stony Brook held a 77-73 lead, its largest of the night, with 2:41 remaining.
Binghamton brought down the offensive board after a missed three, and sophomore guard Sam Sessoms took advantage of the opportunity with a long ball from the top of the key. Stony Brook came up empty and Sessoms added three more with the bucket and the foul to give Binghamton the lead back, 79-77.
Foreman went for the 3-pointer again but had his shot rejected by senior guard Richard Caldwell, Jr. Sessoms, guarded by the much taller junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye, took his shot from downtown and found nothing but net. The dagger put the Bearcats up by five with 51 seconds left. Sessoms scored nine straight points in less than two minutes, single-handedly powering Binghamton through for the upset.
“We didn’t play with as much physicality as we usually do, and that’s obviously on the coaches,” Ford said. “I don’t know if we thought it was going to be easy, if we just expected we were going to score enough that we would find a way to win.”
Stony Brook never led in the first half and were fortunate to have only been down by five, 40-35, at halftime. Junior forward Anthony Ochefu got two quick layups, the second being a third-opportunity buzzer-beater, after Binghamton led by nine with 36 seconds to go. Olaniyi had been held scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting while the Bearcats started the game shooting 55% (16-for-29). Binghamton had outscored Stony Brook in the paint 24-12 before Ochefu’s pair of layups.
Olaniyi scored five points within the first four minutes of the second half, including two free throws to give Stony Brook a 44-43 lead, its first of the entire contest. The two teams would continue to trade buckets, but for the most part, it was the Bearcats who were ahead. A Sessoms three put Binghamton up 61-57 with 10:36 remaining, but six straight Stony Brook points tilted the pendulum back in the Seawolves’ favor. The home team held the lead for just 5:50 of total game time.
“Because we’ve got size and we’ve got a lot of guys that can drive to the rim, [opponents] just sit in zone and hope you don’t shoot it well,” Ford said. “9-for-29 from three is significantly worse than what we’ve been on the season. We were bad at the foul line. Still, we had the game won and just couldn’t get one single stop in the last three and a half minutes. One stop and you win the game.”
The Bearcats shot 49% (32-for-65) and knocked down 11 threes. Sessoms led all players with 25 points (10-for-21 from the floor, 4-for-9 from three), while senior forward Pierre Sarr posted a double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Four players in total scored in double digits for Binghamton.
“We went zone because we weren’t getting any stops,” Ford said. “It wasn’t like we went zone because we thought it’d be good. We went zone because we couldn’t guard them.”
After zeroes in the first half, Olaniyi finished with a team-high 20. Gueye scored a season-high 16 to go along with 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. As a team, Stony Brook shot 43% (29-for-68) from the floor, 63% (12-for-19) from the line, and ended up dead even with Binghamton in rebounds.
The Seawolves have seven days to bounce back from the defeat. A bye looms on Saturday before a trip to Massachusetts to take on the UMass Lowell River Hawks at the Tsongas Center on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.
“We’ll spend a lot of time on the defense,” Ford said when asked about his plans during the break. “We’ve spent most of our time on offense because we’ve been so effective defensively. Clearly, that was not a great decision.”