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VESTAL, N.Y. - After its longest layoff (3 days) of the hectic early season, Binghamton men’s basketball returns to the hardwood when the Bearcats (1-5) host Cornell (3-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Events Center.
Binghamton is looking to reignite an offense that averaged 71 points during a three-game stretch but was held to 54 points on 31 percent shooting in Tuesday’s 26-point loss at Army. Freshman forward Willie Rodriguez (12.0 ppg.) produced his first collegiate double-double at West Point with team-highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Rodriguez is averaging 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds over his last three outings. Freshman forward Dusan Perovic is BU’s other double-digit scorer on the season (10.3 ppg.). Perovic has also hit 8-of-11 three-point attempts.
Sophomore guard Yosef Yacob (7.8 ppg.) and second-year forward Nick Madray (7.3 ppg.) add to the offensive production. Madray chipped in nine points, six rebounds and a career-high four blocks at Army. Freshman wing Justin McFadden has been one of the team’s strongest defenders and has made 18-of-19 free throws (95%) at the other end of the floor.
The Bearcats have seven players - all underclassmen - averaging 20 minutes of playing time.
The Big Red (3-4) are coming off a 67-60 home win against Canisius on Wednesday – a victory that snapped the team’s three-game losing skid. Previously, they beat George Mason (68-60), lost to Loyola (71-76) and beat Colgate (58-52) before dropping all three games at the Charleston Classic (S.C.), to South Carolina (69-45), Penn State (72-71) and Drexel (61-59). Three of the team’s four losses have come by five or fewer points and the Big Red held late leads over both Penn State and Drexel.
Against Canisius, senior guard Galal Cancer scored 18 points, grabbed a career-high eight rebounds and had four steals, sophomore guard Darryl Smith notched 13 points off the bench and senior forward Shonn Miller had 10 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal in just 22 minutes of action. The Big Red pressure defense limited Canisius to just 33 percent shooting overall and 29 percent from the 3-point line.
Cornell returns three starters and 10 letterwinners from a 2013-14 team that struggled to a 2-26 record. The Big Red were chosen eighth (of eight) in the Ivy League Preseason Poll. But this team has been boosted by the return of Miller, a first team All-Ivy selection who missed the entire season last winter with a shoulder injury.
Cornell leads the all-time series, which began in 1988, 6-3. But the Bearcats pulled off a memorable 89-79 win last season in Ithaca. In that game, BU orchestrated a stunning second-half comeback from 19 points down and ended the game with a 17-2 run. The Bearcats put 59 points on the board in the second half and then-freshman guard Marlon Beck II punctuated the comeback with a game-high 27 points, 19 coming in the pivotal second period. Binghamton made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 45 seconds to seal the win. The Bearcats had three 20-point scorers for the first time in the program’s Division I era.