Uncharacteristic poor shooting from the free-throw line almost cost University at Albany its game with upset-minded Binghamton Monday night.
The Great Danes, ranked second in the nation in foul shooting at 77 percent, converted just 15 of 27 at the line, but they made eight out of their final 10 foul shots in the last five minutes to hold off the Bearcats, 66-60, at SEFCU Arena.
The Bearcats, playing without two starters, including leading scorer Jordan Reed, had a chance to win with 19.8 seconds left, but Nick Madray’s open three-pointer was an airball, and senior center John Puk gobbled up the rebound before nailing a pair of free throws with 10.6 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.
UAlbany improves to 4-2 in the America East Conference and 10-9 overall. The Bearcats drop to 1-4 and 4-14.
“You can’t put it in print what I was thinking when Madray took that last shot,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “The tough part of our job is that it depends a lot on 18- to 20-year-old kids. Our guys knew what the play was going to be, but they didn’t execute.”
The Danes failed to take advantage of Binghamton’s depleted lineup. They turned the ball over 19 times, and struggled big time at the line.
“We’re No. 2 in the nation in foul shooting — not just No. 2 in Albany,” said Brown. “We usually bury teams at the line. But it was just one of those games. For us, we had a bad night. The best way to describe this game was ugly.”
“Missing free throws or making free throws can be contagious,” said Peter Hooley, who scored 17 points. “This was just one of those nights from the line.”
UAlbany’s defense created several Binghamton turnovers early and helped the Danes score the first eight points of the game, but the Bearcats regrouped and eventually took a 26-25 lead before the Danes went into the intermission on top, 29-26.
When Dallas Ennema buried a three-pointer with 10:05 left, the Danes extended their advantage to 53-43, but the stubborn Bearcats fought back, slicing their deficit to 56-55 on a Roland Brown reverse layup with 3:22 to go.
Yosef Yacob’s trey with 32 seconds left pulled Binghamton to within 61-60, and then Hooley, who shoots nearly 90 percent from the line, made one of two free throws for a 62-60 edge. The Danes made their final four foul shots to create some breathing room.
“It was a tough loss for us,” said Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey. “We fought really, really hard tonight. We played a good team on the road. That would have been a good program game for us.”
Ennema finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Gary Johnson produced 10 points for the Danes. Sam Rowley, hindered by a right-wrist injury, added six rebounds, but was 0-for-4 from the line and just 3-for-7 from the floor. All four of his misses were from inside the paint.
Madray and Marlon Beck scored 16 each for Binghamton, while Yacob and Karon Waller added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
UAlbany held the Bearcats to just 34.1 percent from the floor, but Binghamton was 22-for-26 from the line.
“Our team has the potential to be very good when we are at 100 percent, but we’re not,” said Brown. “Sam Rowley was hurting, but we struggled to find a way to win. A team like us doesn’t miss double figures in free throws. We played OK defensively in the first half, but we made a lot of turnovers. A lot of them were unforced. We stepped on the baseline four times.”
The Great Danes travel to New Hampshire Thursday before hosting Stony Brook Jan. 29.
Madray 4-12 6-6 16, Ogundadegbe 0-0 0-0 0, Waller 2-4 5-6 10, Beck 4-8 5-8 16, Yacob 3-12 4-4 12, Moquete 0-1 0-0 0, Rinaldi 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 2-7 2-2 6, Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-44 22-26 60.
S. Rowley 3-7 0-4 6, Johnson 3-4 4-4 10, Puk 3-6 3-4 9, Evans 2-7 3-4 8, Hooley 6-12 2-3 17, Shengelia 0-0 0-0 0, Has 1-1 0-0 3, M. Rowley 0-1 1-5 1, Egharevba 0-0 0-0 0, Wiegmann 0-1 0-0 0, Ennema 4-7 2-3 12. Totals: 22-46 15-27 66.
Halftime: UAlbany, 29-26. Three-point goals: Binghamton 8-24 (Madray 2-9, Waller 1-2, Beck 3-5, Yacob 2-7, Moquete 0-1); UAlbany 7-16 (Evans 1-3, Hooley 3-7, Haas 1-1, Wiegmann 0-1, Ennema 2-4). Rebounds: Binghamton 24 (Waller 6); UAlbany 38 (Puk 7, Ennema 7). Assists: Binghamton 7 (Beck 3), UAlbany 12 (Hooley 4). Total fouls: Binghamton 23, UAlbany 23. Fouled out: Ogundadebge. Attendance: 2,956.