Every time Mike Gordon moved further away from the three-point arc, his eyes got bigger.
The Binghamton senior point guard put on a remarkable long-distance shooting display Saturday afternoon to spark the Bearcats to a 71-57 victory over the University at Albany at SEFCU Arena.
Gordon, known more for his defensive ability to shut down former Albany standout guard Jamar Wilson in their individual battles over the last three seasons, connected on a school-record eight three-pointers in 11 attempts, and finished with a career-high 32 points to help the Bearcats collect their first road win of the season.
Binghamton, which shot 61.1 percent from three-point range and 55.6 percent from the floor, evened its America East Conference record at 2-2 and improved to 6-10 overall. Albany, which saw its modest two-game winning streak snapped, dropped to 2-2 and 7-9.
“I told him that I wanted him to shoot it almost every time he touched the ball,” said Binghamton first-year head coach Kevin Broadus.
“He told me to shoot it first, shoot it often and shoot it last,” said Gordon with a huge grin. “I was definitely feeling it today. I wasn’t forcing any shots. I was patient.”
Gordon, who routinely shot from 30 feet or beyond, said it was by far his best shooting performance at any level of basketball.
“I had confidence. I got my feet set and shot the ball,” he said.
Although Gordon was averaging 11 points per game, the Great Danes never expected his one-man show.
“Mike Gordon is the best point guard in the league,” said Albany head coach Will Brown. “But we let a very good player get into a rhythm. When a good player gets into a rhythm like that, the basket looks bigger. Early in the game, he hit some deep ones. But to be honest, he’s a streaky shooter at best. He’s never shot it close to that, and our scouting reports show that, but you’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
Gordon found his range early. He connected for back-to-back three-pointers to open the game and kept firing away. Binghamton, which made its first six shots from the floor, rode Gordon’s hot shooting to a 29-19 lead with 5:58 left in the first half.
The Great Danes chipped away at their deficit, however, and they managed to claw within 31-26 at intermission.
Gordon nearly matched his previous career high (22 points) at halftime with 20 points.
Lost in Gordon’s incredible shooting exhibition was the all-around play of Albany senior guard Brian Lillis, who kept the Great Danes in striking distance with an assortment of short jumpers and driving layups.
Senior guard Jon Iati, who was a game-time decision to play at all because of turf toe, buried a three-pointer with 11:12 left to knot the score at 44-44.
But Gordon just beat the 24-second clock with a 17-footer from the top of the key to give the Bearcats the lead once more.
Lillis’ bank shot tied the score again at 46-46 with 9:19 left, but then Gordon took the wind out of the Great Danes’ sails with another trey to give the Bearcats a 49-46 lead with 8:46 left.
After sophomore forward Lazar Trifunovic hit a baby hook in the lane, Gordon nailed another three-pointer and the Bearcats built a
54-46 lead with 6:40 to go.
Iati hit another three-pointer, making him the 29th player in school history to score at least 1,000 points, to cut the Albany deficit to 60-55 with 2:05 to go, but the Bearcats outscored the Great Danes, 11-2, the rest of the way.
“He [Gordon] shot very well today. He was making them from three-point range,” said Lillis, who finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and two steals. “We didn’t think they could shoot that well in the second half after shooting so well in the first half, but we were wrong,” he said. “Our whole team wasn’t quite there today. We got complacent.”
Brown was not happy with his team’s performance, especially on the defensive end.
“We knew Binghamton was a talented team, but we were soft tonight,” he said. “It’s tough to teach toughness. We need to get tougher. It’s not like we were driving the ball against [Dikembe] Mutombo out there. All we had to do was to give some ball fakes and score the ball. We had our chances.
“I’ll grind the guys in practice this week. Maybe some guys will have to earn their playing time in practice. We’ll see. I have a feeling the guys are not going to like me much over the next few days.”
Trifunovic 5-13 3-4 13, Fuller 3-3 0-0 6, Herbert 0-2 3-4 3, Gordon 11-17 2-2 32, Lukusa 1-1 2-2 4, Camara 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 4-6 0-0 10, Kimovic 1-3 0-0 3, Montgomery 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-45 10-12 71.
Connelly 3-11 2-3 9, Wilson 0-4 0-0 0, Covington 1-1 0-0 2, Hastings 4-6 0-0 9, Lillis 8-16 9-10 25, Moores 0-0 0-0 0, Iati 2-9 0-0 6, Ambrose 0-0 0-0 0, Gifford 2-2 0-0 4, Turley 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 21-50 11-13 57.
Halftime: Binghamton 31-26. Three-point goals: Bingamton 11-18 (Hebert 0-1, Gordon 8-11, Jackson 2-3, Klimovic 1-3), Albany 4-15 (Connelly 1-2, Wilson 0-4, Hastings 1-1, Lillis 0-1, Iati 2-7). Rebounds: Binghamton 23 (Trifunovic 7), Albany 29 (Lillis 11). Assists: Binghamton 14 (Fuller 4), Albany 13 (Wilson 3, Lillis 3, Iati 3). Personal fouls: Binghamton 17, Albany 12. Officials: Tim O’Brien, Jeff Plunkett, Dan Anderson. Attendance: 3,126.
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