The Marist men’s basketball team moves back to .500 on the season following their 64-51 road victory over the Binghamton Bearcats on Wednesday night. The Red Foxes now own a three-game winning streak over the Bearcats, with all of those victories coming in the last two years.
Marist kicked the scoring off with a jumper from just inside the three-point line from sophomore guard Ricardo Wright. Binghamton came down on the next possession and connected on a triple to take an early 3-2 lead.
While the Red Foxes were able to get good looks at the basket in the early going, they were still struggling on the defensive end. The Bearcats were six-for-seven from the field over the first eight minutes, holding at 15-10 lead at the under 12 media timeout.
Momentum began to shift in the first when Jao Ituka started and was able to really impact the game on both ends of the floor. Late in the half, the freshman guard from Gaithersbrug, Maryland put a ton of ball pressure of Binghamton junior guard Hakon Hjalmarsson, forcing a turnover that lead to two free throws for junior guard Tyler Saint-Furcy.
Following that sequence, Ituka found a way to change the game with his ability to drive to the basket. The guard was able to use his body to create space, scoring four consecutive points to get the Red Foxes right back into the game.
Each team scored an additional basket over the final minute, making a 24-24 game at the half. Senior guard Christian Hinckson and Ituka led each team with eight points apiece going into the break.
With the teams in the midst of a tightly-contested battle, the player who started to give Marist a critical lift in the opening minutes of the second half was senior forward Samkelo Cele. The forward scored eight points in the first six minutes following the break, including two-three pointers.
Once Ituka checked back into the game early in the second, the offense began to run through him. The guard scored five consecutive points, giving Marist a 39-32 lead with 11:42 remaining.
For the next handful of minutes, the teams would trade baskets as Binghamton showed no signs of getting within a few possessions of Marist. The Red Foxes went on a 13-11 run over the next six minutes and change, extending their lead to nine.
After not scoring since the opening minutes of the first half, Wright hit a few critical shots down the stretch to extend the lead for the Red Foxes. The guard scored five consecutive points for Marist, including a three-pointer from the left wing to give the team a ten-point lead with 3:34 remaining.
With Binghamton trailing by double digits, the Bearcats were forced to send Marist to the free throw line in order to extend the game. In the final minutes, the Red Foxes connected on six of seven shots from the charity stripe, giving the home team no chance to make a dent into their lead. Marist went on a 9-6 run over the last three minutes, finishing off a dominant performance on the road.
Cele had a terrific performance for the Red Foxes against Binghamton, especially in the second half. The 6-foot-5 senior had a team-high 18 points on seven-for-11 shooting from the field and two-for-two shooting from behind the arc.
Ituka also finished in double figures, going for 15 points on seven-for-ten shooting from the field along with four rebounds and two steals in 20 minutes. The 6-foot-1 guard has now reached double figures in five games so far this season.
Another player for the Red Foxes who deserves some recognition for his impact is redshirt senior center Victor Enoh. The 6-foot-7 forward had four points and a season-high nine rebounds in 24 minutes.
Junior guard Tyler Bertram, who came into this game as the leading scorer for the Bearcats at 11.6 points per game, was held to just five points on two-for-eight shooting from the field and one-for-five shooting from three.
Marist returns to play on Dec. 12th at 2 p.m., when they face the Navy Midshipmen at McCann Arena in Poughkeepsie, New York. The Midshipmen won the only ever matchup between these teams, earning a 53-51 victory at home on Dec. 7th, 2019.
Edited by Bridget Reilly
Photo Credit: Luke Sassa