LOWELL, Mass. – The rebuilding and learning continues for Binghamton. The second year is almost always the most challenging, and year two under Tommy Dempsey is looking that way on the bottom line. The Bearcats are mired in a season-long seven-game losing streak, the latest being Saturday’s 62-55 loss at UMass-Lowell.
“I think year two is the toughest in the rebuilding process,” said Dempsey.
Binghamton has a young team, evident in the starting lineup alone. On Saturday, their starting lineup had a senior, two sophomores and two freshmen. Just three seniors are on the roster, and all of them, including starting forward Roland Brown, are bit players from a production standpoint. There are also just three juniors, and only one, shooting guard Robert Mansell, appears to have a clear role in the future and he’s unfortunately had two season-ending knee injuries in three years.
In other words, their upperclassmen are hardly irreplaceable. The Bearcats’ future is going to be based around the freshmen and sophomores, as well as what the upperclassmen do as leaders for them. Dempsey likes the potential of this group, but their talent alone isn’t going to get them to the promised land.
“We have a lot of young guys with significant roles that I feel comfortable with for their future,” said Dempsey. “We need some more guys to help them, we need them to grow up.”
One of those freshmen, second-leading scorer Nick Madray, had to sit out Saturday’s game due to an injury on his left side from a fall in practice. He may have the most potential of anyone on the roster, as the baby-faced forward can fill out more and is already productive for this team.
The Bearcats are not going to contend in America East this year, and while they play to win every game, the mandate wasn’t to be champions in year two. The idea is to rebuild this team, and right now Dempsey and his staff are doing that. Getting wins along the way only helps, and while they have been hard to come by they tell you that this team is capable of winning games right now.
It’s not every day that a 4-18 team has won two road games and knocked off a contender from another conference at home. Binghamton won at Mount St. Mary’s in early December and then beat Bryant at home near the end of the month. But to win games, this team has to do just about everything right. They have a slim margin for error.
The Bearcats looked good in the first half on Saturday, building up a 14-point lead at one point and leading 35-22 as they went into the locker room. They took advantage of 11 UMass-Lowell turnovers and shot 53.6 percent from the field. Then they lost the momentum with the break, and the River Hawks started the second half on a 19-2 run to take the lead.
“It’s hard when you’re in a good place, and the worst thing that probably could have happened to us was halftime,” said Dempsey. “We went in and cooled down.”
Binghamton has had plenty of chances to play from behind, but this was a rare chance to play with the lead. It’s another teaching moment, as Dempsey noted that teams have to learn to handle success as well as failure, but this team hasn’t yet had a lot of success. The goal, naturally, is to handle both better, and experience will help. Right now they lack that to a large degree.
“Sometimes year two is the toughest because you’re really starting your thing in year two, and that’s kind of where we are right now,” said Dempsey. “So we’re going through a bit of a struggle, but there’s better days ahead.”
The process of gaining experience is often difficult, especially on the bottom line and in the second year. Chances to gain experience happen all the time, win or lose. Wins make it a little easier to take at this point and help to get more of them later on.